Azalea Storytelling Festival this weekend

Published 11:31 am Friday, March 1, 2024

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The Azalea Storytelling Committee, LaGrange College, and the Lafayette Society for Performing Arts are inviting the community to the 2024 Azalea Storytelling Festival.

The festival will be held on March 1, 2 and 3 at the Callaway Auditorium on the LaGrange College campus. Tickets are available for individual concerts, each featuring all tellers or the entire festival. Sunday morning concerts are free to attend.

This year’s festival includes storytellers who have graced the Azalea stage many times and tellers new to our festival.

Azalea favorite, Donald Davis, was born in a Southern Appalachian mountain world rich in stories. While he heard many traditional stories about Jack and other heroic characters, he was most attracted to the stories of his family and places of origin. Davis began retelling the stories he heard and then adding his own new stories to them until he was repeatedly asked to “tell it again, on purpose.

The author of nineteen books and more than forty original recordings, Davis is the recipient of both the Circle of Excellence and the Lifetime Achievement Awards from the National Storytelling Network.

Bil Lepp is another returning teller. He is an award-winning storyteller, author, and recording artist. He hosts the History Channel’s Man Vs History series, the occasional host of NPR’s internationally syndicated Mountain Stage, and a contributing columnist to the West Virginia Gazette-Mail. Bil’s humorous, family-friendly tall tales and stories have earned the appreciation of listeners of all ages and from all walks of life. Though a five-time champion of the WV Liars’s Contest, Lepp’s stories often contain morsels of truth, which present universal themes in clever and witty ways. From grade schools to corporate execs to Comedy Central’s Hudson stage, audiences across the country have been delighted by Bil’s mirthful tales and delightful insights into everyday life. Bil’s books and audio collections have won awards, including the PEN Steven Kroll Award for Children’s Book Writing, Parents’ Choice Gold awards, and awards from the National Parenting Publications Association and the Public Library Assoc. He also received the Vandalia Award, West Virginia’s highest folk honor.

Azalea newcomer Regi Carpenter has been utilizing the power of stories to motivate, inspire, energize, and focus individuals in corporate, academic, and non-profit settings for over twenty years. Her keynotes uplift people as they are reminded of each individual’s tremendous impact within an organization. Regi’s keynotes are noted for their insight, humor, and effectiveness.

Regi is the recipient of many awards, including Storytelling World, Parent’s Choice, and Parents’ Guide to Children’s Media Award. Her stories have been featured on Sirius Radio, Apple Seed Radio, The Moth, and NPR. Her story Snap! is a winner of the Boston StorySlam. Snap! is the true tale of her severe mental illness as a teenager and her journey back to reality. Her memoir, “Where There’s Smoke, There’s Dinner: stories of a seared childhood,” is “an unexpected gift that leaves us longing for more.” Booklist Review

Regi is also the founder of Stories with Spirit, a creative initiative dedicated to bringing songs of joy and stories of hope to grieving children and the people who love and care for them in homes, hospices, and hospitals.

Paul Strickland is a professional storyteller and theatre artist who lives in Kentucky, and is at the Azalea for the first time. He has well over 7 hours of unique, family-friendly stories in his repertoire, including reupholstered folk tales, fairytales for adults and future adults, tall tales, and even historical stories that happen to have never happened.

He was a FEATURED TELLER: NEW VOICE at the National Storytelling Festival in 2023. He was also a Featured Teller at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival in September of 2023. He has been a featured teller at several major storytelling festivals, including the Cave Run Storytelling Festival in 2022.

In November of 2018, he made his NYC stage debut Off-Broadway at the SoHo Playhouse with his shadow and flashlight ghost story play “13 Dead Dreams of “Eugene.”

Always adapting to whatever audience is in front of him, Paul loves telling stories in every imaginable environment, from comedy clubs to elementary and middle schools, corporate events, and even two prisons.

Collections of his stories have won “Best of Fest” honors more than 16 times at Fringe Theatre Festivals in the US and Canada. Selections from his comedy performance “Levels of Difficulty” are still played nearly every day on SiriusXM radio.

The Azalea Storytelling Festival’s favorite emcee, Carol Cain, is from a big family and a small town, giving her plenty to talk about.

As a new mother, she first discovered the power of storytelling thirty-five years ago when her 12th-grade English students begged for stories about her son to get her off the topic of British literature.

She continued to tell stories in her classroom until her retirement, after thirty years of teaching language arts and theatre arts with the Troup County School System in LaGrange. In addition to being her school system’s Teacher of the Year for 2000, Carol was named a top five finalist for Georgia’s 2001 Teacher of the Year.

Carol has been a member of the Azalea Storytelling Festival planning committee since the festival’s inception in 1997. She’s been a featured teller twice and is the most familiar face on the Azalea stage.

Josh Goforth was originally scheduled to perform this year and is unable to attend.

The festival begins Friday evening, with music by Don Papenbrock at 6:45 p.m., followed by a full concert of storytelling. Saturday stories begin at 9:30 a.m., and concerts continue throughout the day and evening, with breaks for lunch and dinner. All tellers will perform at each concert. Sunday morning’s concert begins at 8:30 a.m. with music by the Dulcimer Troupers, followed by two storytelling sessions featuring all tellers. Sunday morning is, as always, free and open to the public.

Tickets can be obtained by visiting Of course, we welcome patrons to buy tickets by phone at 706-882-9909 or by visiting the LSPA business office Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tickets are also available at the door for all concerts.