By MAGGIE MCMURRAY
Moapa Valley Progress
Storytellers come in all sizes and never was this more evident than at the Bristlecone Storytelling Festival held last week at Hafen Middle School in Mesquite.
The festival gives the best storytellers in grades 4-12 in Logandale, Overton, Moapa, and Mesquite a chance to come together and transport an audience into the world of stories for an evening. The young storytellers enchant and captivate their audience through the power of the spoken word.
The competition to get to the festival is fierce as only the top three storytellers from each school are permitted to attend. The young storytellers present their stories from memory and this year each performed with their whole heart, making a memorable evening.
The festival, sponsored by Clark County School District, began 16 years ago as a way to help kids learn to express themselves through speech, specifically through the power of stories. Across the district there are six storytelling festivals that take place each year, including the one held at Hughes Middle School.
“There is power in the art of storytelling,” said retired CCSD librarian and festival originator Rita Botzenhardt. “Once you find a story you love, you become a part of it and it becomes the heart of who you are. It is no longer a speech, it is part of you. It is just you and the listener.”
CCSD Head of Library Services Robert Jones explained why the school sponsors the Bristlecone Festival. “This activity hits the speaking and listening standards very well for our curriculum,” he said. “Telling stories is an art that touches all parts of life and communication.”
Nine students from Moapa Valley received the honor of getting to take their stories to the festival and share them before a captive audience.
From Perkins Elementary, Beverly Potts told the story of “Bracelets,” Dianne Leavitt told the story of “How the Tiger Got His Stripes,” and Gracie May told the story of “On a Dark and Story Night.”
From Grant Bowler Elementary, Reagan Stankosky told the story of “The Boy Who Sold the Butter,” Ruby Valencia told the story of “Scissors,” and Alyssa Jolley told the story of “My Lucky Day.”
From Mack Lyon Middle School, Iain McMurray told the story of “How the Turtle Cracked His Shell,” Clay Whipple told the story of “The Wolf Who Cried Boy,” and Ellie Robison told the story of “The Wrestler and the King.”
These students were joined by 9 other presenters from Virgin Valley Elementary, Hughes Middle School, and Virgin Valley High School.
The festival was not a contest, but rather a celebration of a job well-done. Presenters received a Bristlecone Storytelling Festival poster signed by all the participants, a brand new book of stories provided by CCSD, and a candy treat, as well as plenty of praise and applause from parents, family, teachers, and school administrators.
Lyon librarian Kaye Eddie was there to support her school’s entries into the festival. “All the kids in the school have to learn a story and present it as part of our curriculum,” hse said. “Those who want to, can then present again as part of a contest to determine which storytellers will get to represent our school. I think it is really good for the kids. They get up in front of people, they gain a lot of confidence, and they have to know, process, and be able to retell a story.”
Perkins 5th grade teacher Valerie Morgan agreed, “The kids learn to have confidence in themselves. Everyone loves a story. They love having the chance to develop their own voice and get to stand in the spotlight for a brief moment.”
Perkins principal Holly Lee was the only administrator to attend and she was very impressed with what she saw. “I thought it was fun!” she said. “The kids just shined. Their personalities came out with their voices through their stories. I especially loved seeing how all the kids complimented each other on how they did when it was over. It was heartwarming to see them support each other.”
The kids all seemed to have a great time as well. Clay Whipple said, “We were all nervous and I think about all of us forgot one part of our story, I know I did, but overall it was a great festival. I was surprised at how entertaining it was.”
Dianne Leavitt said, “It was my first time coming and it was not what I thought it would be. It was a lot better. I really loved hearing everyone’s stories.”
Leavitt’s mother Frannie was there to support her daughter and the other kids. She said, “It was adorable. I loved it. This was my first storytelling and it was so much fun. I loved seeing them perform and do something they are passionate about. They all really shined.”