Swapping stories, sharing memories: Storytelling event set for this Friday

Michael Cotter will be one of the storyteller’s at this Friday’s “And That’s My Story,” event at the Hormel Historic Home. Herald file photo

Michael Cotter will be one of the storyteller’s at this Friday’s “And That’s My Story,” event at the Hormel Historic Home. Herald file photo

Storytelling is coming back to Austin.

After a 22-year storytelling festival took a 10-year hiatus, a group of story tellers and musicians will once again host “And That’s My Story,” an evening of stories, music and dining, at the Hormel Historic Home on Oct. 30.

“When I first got into this it was a national event and I got gradually into it,” storyteller and local farmer Michael Cotter said. “And I was amazed because I didn’t think people would want to listen to my farm stories, but they actually did.”

Several people from around the country will be at the event to share their stories and share aspects of their lives. Cotter said it’s a different type of entertainment — listening to other people’s stories — but it’s worth it.

“It’s a different experience than other entertainment,” he said. “Not everyone can play music, but everyone has a story. And they’ve forgotten many of them, but this helps remind them that maybe their stories should be told.”

Cotter will share stories from his family’s 140 years on a farm where his grandfather used oxen to break the prairie sod. Cotter’s memories, tinged with a bit of Irish humor, have taken him across the United States doing festivals, classes and a variety of venues.

Chuck Suchy from Mandan, North Dakota, will write and perform music of the Great Plains, the people and farming life. His songs portray hopes and dreams, and the reality that binds everyone together.

Rose McGee from Golden Valley, Minnesota, is an award winning storyteller, author, facilitator, playwright and poet, and shares her wisdom in a variety of venues including the Panafest in Ghana, West Africa. Her story “The Power of Pie,” explains why sweet potato pie is the sacred dessert of the black culture.

August Rubrecht of Mondovi, Wisconsin, grew up hearing and telling stories in the Ozark tradition. His career path has included construction worker, grave digging and a college professor, and he will tell the stories of the unusual and interesting characters he has known.

Bev Jackson Cotter of Albert Lea began her career in storytelling as a director of a historical museum. She loves history and believes everyone has stories that need to be shared and passed on to the next generations. A writer, poet, columnist and co-author with husband Michael Cotter, she has shared her love of “real people” throughout the Midwest.

Austin’s Jack Koppa was born and raised in a German/Polish community and began playing the concertina when he was 5 years old. Now a retired funeral director, he enjoys sharing polkas, waltzes, schottisches, and his instruments with area audiences.

The storytelling event started in the 1980s when the farm crisis hit, according to Cotter.

“We put our first one on and they liked it so we kept doing it,” he said.

The event stopped taking place several years ago after a blizzard kept participants away.

Now the event will bring storytellers from around the country and provide a variety of unique entertainment. This event is sponsored by the National Storytelling Network, Cedars of Austin, Historic Hormel Home, Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau and area media.

“And That’s My Story” begins with a social hour at 5:30 p.m., followed by a dinner at 6:30 p.m.. The storytelling concert begins at 7:30 p.m. Costs include $30 for the entire evening or $15 for the storytelling concert only. Call the HHH at 507-433-4243, or send registration to HHH, 208 Fourth Ave. NW, in Austin.

There will also be a Saturday morning “Coffee and Donuts” with the storytellers at the Hormel Home beginning at 9 a.m. It will include stories and conversation with the featured tellers, connecting with history, and an open mic, an opportunity for everyone to share their own stories.

“If you tell real stories that happened, it’s amazing, they can be totally different in another person’s life, but people will come up to me. … They hear their own thing in there, and that’s the magic of it, because sometimes it changes their life,” Cotter said.

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