Laughs and fun highlight 27th annual Azalea Storytelling Festival

Published 8:45 am Tuesday, March 7, 2023

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Over the weekend, storytellers Donald Davis, Adam Booth, Dolores Hydock and the Rev. Robert Jones took the stage for the 27th annual Azalea Storytelling Festival.

The event saw over 1,500 people from Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Wisconsin, West Virginia and more for a weekend filled with music, laughter, and of course — storytelling.

“I think this was one of our best Azalea Festivals. It offered four tellers, each with a different style of presentations, that really complemented each other,” Co-chair Joyce Morgan Young said. “I especially enjoyed the music performances from the Young Singers, LaGrange Youth Orchestra ensemble, pianist Ken Passmore, the West Georgia Choral Society and the Dulcimer Troupers.” 

During the event, Davis took the audience through stories of his eccentric but very wise uncle. Hydock spoke of her polish heritage and how speaking powerfully to yourself — and your garden — helps plants grow.

First-time Azalea storytellers Booth and Jones brought a unique spin to the festival.

Booth verbally took attendees to West Virginia for scary stories of headless men and haunted houses.

Jones recanted the origins of the pinstripes on his guitar and how Bruce Lee helped him protect himself from bullies.

Brucie and David Shook of Greenville, North Carolina said the Azalea Festival is a yearly event they always look forward to.

“We love the Azalea and try not to miss it. I think we have a pretty good record. This year was one of the best ever,” Brucie said.

Azalea Storytelling Director Kirsten Dunn said this was her first time experiencing the festival, and she feels the whole weekend it went great.

“I got to spend a little bit of the week leading up to the festival with the Rev. Jones. So I was sort of familiar with his style, but getting to hear Donald Davis, Dolores Hydock and Adam booth all tell in their own unique way was really cool. Nobody repeats the same story, so if you come for all three days, each story was a new one. They all had such a wide range of things they talked about, and it was amazing to hear,” Dunn said.

Susan Brackman said she became a Donald Davis fan when she was seven years old.

“When he (Davis) tells stories, he tells them the way he saw it when he was child or a young man. When I was growing up, I was experiencing those stories as a child. Now that I’m older, I’m seeing that there’s another world that the adults were laughing at, kind of like when adults laugh at kid’s cartoons, there’s another story to it,” Brackman said.

Jeanie Brackman said even though she is a fan of Davis, she enjoyed getting to hear stories from other storytellers.

“It’s not about Donald Davis anymore. Although he is our favorite, we’re committed to coming even if he’s not here. We’ve met two new storytellers that I think are absolutely hilarious,” Jeanie said.

Jo Ellen, a two-year festival attendee, said the event was wonderful.

“I love the storytellers; their stories are just fabulous. You laugh, you get sentimental — it was just a great experience,” Ellen said.

Kathy Tilley, present of Visit LaGrange, said the festival is a huge benefit to LaGrange.

“The festival is a huge benefit to our economy for tourism. It brings a lot of great tourists here to LaGrange, and they stay in our hotels, they eat in our restaurants and explore LaGrange. It comes at a time when many of our hotels need the occupancy, and we are big fans of the Storytelling Festival,” Tilley said.