'The story never ends'

Sumer tradition is sponsored by arts council and Nora roberts foundation

Sumer tradition is sponsored by arts council and Nora roberts foundation

June 20, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

It wasn't exactly a dark and stormy night, but it was an overcast and damp Tuesday morning for a storytelling session at a pavilion at Doub's Woods Park in Hagerstown.

Despite the chill and drizzle, a small but enthusiastic audience of children, child-care providers and a couple of mothers sat or stretched out on mats while storyteller Candace Wolf wove her spell.

The June 8 session was the first of the summer's "Stories in the Park," a several-years-old tradition presented by the Washington County Arts Council and the Nora Roberts Foundation.


"We kind of travel the world with the storytelling," said Elizabeth Lay, arts council executive director. There will be stories from far away - China, Indonesia. There will be stories from closer to home - the Chesapeake and Native American traditions.

On Tuesday, Wolf told the story of Jimmy and the Bellybutton Monster. She told an old Scottish tale of a king, his three sons and a magical world ruled by an enormous bullfrog.

Audience participation was called for and received.

When Jimmy got as stiff as a board and got "all shook up," so did the listeners. When the Bellybutton Monster flew in on his "red-gold-purple-lime-green wings," the audience hummed him along.

Kids and adults alike took the high road and provided vocal accompaniment, humming the "Bonny Bonny Banks of Loch Lomond" at appropriate times during the telling of the Scottish tale.

Janet Rhinecker has brought children from her Boonsboro child-care center for several years.

"It's always exciting for the kids, but I get as much out of it as they do," she said. She also takes children to storytelling sessions in Boonsboro's Shafer Park. The stories provide an opportunity for building literacy and learning new things, she said.

Boonsboro resident Jenny Sarnecki's children, Tyler, 7, and Hailey, 3, snuggled close to their mother - maybe for warmth - during the stories.

"I like the interaction with the kids. I love the instruments," Sarnecki said.

Katie Hershey of Keedysville has been taking her children - now there are six, ages 2 to 11 - to hear "Stories in the Park" for several years.

"We go all over," she said, adding that it's something to break up the long summer days. She said she likes that the stories provide information about other cultures. In past years, the Hershey family has heard stories from China and Hawaii.

Todd Hershey, 11, said he'd probably be working on the computer if he were at home. He liked the Scottish story and got to play the role of one of the sons. His brother Paddy Hershey, 9, also liked the story of the sons' quests, and the Scottish tale was 6-year-old Samantha Biddinger's favorite, too.

"All of them" got 5-year-old Jacob Kingsburg's vote, but Michael Hershey, 4, was unequivocal in his preference for one of the stories.

He shouted his endorsement of "The Bellybutton Monster."

At the end of her program, Wolf asked the children if they enjoyed the stories. The response was a resounding "yes."

Then she asked them if they knew what they were supposed to do.

She helped them with the answer: "Tell it again. Pass it along."

She gave them rhythmic reinforcement, and the final lines of the verse made a point, which "Stories in the Park" will echo through August:

"So the story never ends ... so the story never ends ... so the story never ends."

If you go...

The Washington County Arts Council and the Nora Roberts Foundation will again present "Stories in the Park," a children's storytelling series at three county parks.

Seating is limited, so those attending should bring blankets or lawn chairs. Children attending should be old enough to sit quietly and listen to the 45-minute programs.

The free performances are at 11 a.m. Tuesdays. Each park has a pavilion, and stories will be told rain or shine.

This year's series includes the following:

-- Doub's Woods Park, 1307 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown

July 8 - Crystal Brown will tell her original stories, folk tales, legends, string and costume stories.

Aug. 5 - Makanda will represent a tapestry of cultures through her stories.

-- Widmeyer Park, Park Road, Hancock

June 24 - Stories and songs of life on the Chesapeake will be presented by Janie Meneely.

July 15 - Storyteller Megan Hicks will give a program titled "Bully for You!"

July 29 - Appearing in costume and character as Edgar Allan Poe, David Keltz will perform the author's poems, short stories and conversations.

-- Shafer Park, off North Main Street, Boonsboro

July 1 - Award-winning Native American storyteller Dovie Thomason-Sickles will tell stories she first heard from her Kiowa Apache and Lakota relatives.

July 22 - Arianna Ross will share magic and poetry of the sea with bright fish and folk traditions through stories based on her experience living with Indonesian fishermen.

Aug. 12 - Linda Fang will tell the legends of China, including "Mulan," with traditional costumes, props, Chinese words and martial arts gestures.

For information, call the Washington County Arts Council, 301-791-3132.

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