The sign at the edge of town proclaims that George West is the “Storytelling Capital of Texas,” and on November 3rd the town will host the 30th annual George West Storyfest. The purpose is to provide a quality, family-oriented event; dedicated to preserving our rich heritage of storytelling. We believe storytelling to be the art of passing information from one generation to the next through various mediums including history, legends, folklore, music and dance. How did this Live Oak County town gain its place in the rich heritage of storytelling?
It all began in 1989 when the Chamber of Commerce sought to draw attention to the town. Chamber president Rob Schneider was inspired by his childhood experiences of hearing “old-timers” sharing stories – whether true or not – at the local cafe. It was decided that the town would host a storytelling festival to pass on this tradition.
There was a strong opinion – still shared today – that the art of storytelling both reflects the richness of the past and helps us look forward to the future. By sharing that history, whether through legends, folklore or myth, storytelling lets people imagine what could be in the future.
Another purpose for the festival was to provide a fundraising opportunity to area nonprofits. Only nonprofit groups could sell food or offer games at the festival. This was because it was sometimes difficult for groups to raise funds in the small community. This arrangement proved successful. For example, in 2014 the nonprofits that participated in Storyfest received an approximate total of $25,000 in funding.
By sending professional storytellers to area schools, the festival found its third purpose. Eventually it was decided that these experienced tellers of tales would visit area school districts the day before the festival to entertain with history and legends and even, on occasion, a tall tale. This program began with two school districts and eventually expanded to several more districts and communities. Schools don’t pay anything for the entertainment and instruction, either, as the professional storytellers are paid through a combination of grants, sponsorships and private donations.
In 1995, the Storyfest Association, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, was formed to manage the festival. Today, 8,500 are drawn annually to the festival – which dwarfs the population (about 2,500) of George West itself.
Attendees can visit the Live Oak County courthouse square to hear music, listen to storytellers and participate in living history demonstrations of settler and cowboy life. Local nonprofit groups will be providing food for purchase, and you can also get a jump on your Christmas shopping from the arts and crafts vendors. You can also find a petting zoo, classic cars and motorcycles, parades and more. Always, festival admission is free!
We are very proud of what we have accomplished in the last twenty-nine years and we look forward to being able to pass down this rich tradition for many years to come. Happy 30th Anniversary to Storyfest!
For more information, visit the website at http://www.georgeweststoryfest.org/
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