Storytelling festival set for weekend

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 3, 2003

The Minnesota Storytelling Festival takes place Friday through Sunday in Austin.

Once upon a time, it was the "Stories from the Heartland" festival. A creation of Michael Cotter, the rural Austin farmer, who discovered he had a "way with words."

Cotter's personal interest in storytelling spawned others to share their experiences and soon enough the festival was a late-winter fixture in Austin.

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Now, it is a slickly packaged event that tests and tickles listeners as much as storytellers and also provides verbal food for thought.

Bev Jackson, coordinator of the festival, has put together the lineup of storytellers that includes Austin's own Cotter, plus Mike Hillman, of Ely; Vicki Juditz, of Burbank, Calif.; Michael Johnson, of Idabel, Okla. and Jack Koppa, Austin.

Cotter travels the nation telling stories about growing up in the nation's heartland at festivals everywhere. He also hosts a weekly radio show on KAUS each Friday morning.

Hillman returns with more stories from the north country of Minnesota and the Iron Range.

Juditz writes and performs true stories about urban women, relationships, turning points and tough decisions.

Johnson tells inspirational and humorous stories and his sources range from life experiences to his horse and grandmother.

Koppa is well-known to Austin audiences. He is a master concertina player and a funeral director.

The festival is being hosted by the Heartland Storytelling Guild and the Minnesota Storytelling Festival's board of directors.

The schedule begins Friday at Holiday Inn of Austin with a 6:30 p.m. dinner show and a concert takes place at 7:30 p.m.

On Saturday the festival moves to the historic Paramount Theatre in downtown Austin for a 10 a.m. concert followed by a free open stage at 11:30 a.m. The 10 a.m. concert is ticket-only admittance at $15 per person.

Also Saturday, there will be a 2 p.m. matinee of storytelling at the Paramount Theatre followed by a 7 p.m. concert. Both are ticket-only events ($7 in advance and $8 at the door, plus $4 for children for the matinee and $9 in advance and $10 at the door for the evening concert).

The festival concludes Sunday at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in downtown Austin with three events at 7:45, 9:15 and 10:45 a.m. All are free.

Storytelling books, tapes and CDs will be available at the Friday and Saturday events.

The festival is made possible through the cooperation of the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council, Inc. with funding from the

Minnesota Legislature.

The Friends of the Minnesota Storytelling Festival, Inc. are inviting interested fans to become a supporter of the festival at silver, gold and platinum levels.

Details, plus more information about the festival, ticket prices and reservations, are available by picking up a brochure at any of several participating merchants in Austin and Albert Lea or by calling Cotter at 437-3306.

More information can be obtained by contacting the Austin Convention/Visitors Bureau at (800) 444-5713 or festival coordinator Jackson in Albert Lea at 373-4748.

Anyone interested in joining the Heartland Storytelling Guild may inquire at the festival or visit the organization's meetings the second Sunday of each month at St. Edward's Catholic Church, in Austin, beginning 2 p.m.

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at