I love the people of all types, reunions, and random adventures that can be had at both the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival and FanX…and tortured me for being on the same weekend of September 5-7, 2019. How do they compare in multi-generational approach, the mingling possibilities, and the miscellaneous (or opportunities beyond what is obvious to the event)?
Timpanogos Storytelling draws an older crowd than any other Utah storytelling festival. Though, it is still a young crowd compared to storytelling festivals on a national or worldwide level. There is an intense need to do things as families so most activities here already keep that in mind. Any age you can think of (up to 104) is likely represented at this Festival.
From the beginning, Timpanogos Storytelling Festival has had the Alpine School District participate in having their students develop stories. These are polished youngsters…sometimes too polished or “frozen” which is probably because parents have them memorize rather than let them flow with the story, though impressive none the less. Meanwhile, the National Youth Storytelling program, known by many names and having jumped from state to state, came to Timpanogos Storytelling as a permanent home. All receive the title of “National Youth Teller” for any youth tellers who make it on the stage whether from Alpine School District, youth winners from Timpanogos-sponsored contests, out-of-state (with Texas and New York being most popular). When students see people their age tell on stage, they are even more drawn to the art of storytelling.
The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival recommends people aged 8+ to attend, though no one is turned away. The Timpanogos people still prepare for what will encourage imaginations. The “Bedtime Stories” concert has stories geared for more the preschool to elementary ages. It can be a ruckus time with that many littles in one area, though adults and youth cheer when it comes time for the Krispy Kreme donuts as that coveted bedtime treat.
Timpanogos reinstated their “Family Tent” that have stories geared for people aged 12 or younger this year. Many of the sessions involved puppetry despite a separate puppetry tent on the Ashton Gardens grounds in Lehi, Utah.
FanX has a KidCon…way far away in the deepest, darkest dungeons–err area–of the Salt Palace. When I decided to attend a performance by Daniel Bishop, the Storyteller, I was late despite leaving 20 minutes to get there in time. If I was counting steps that day for that journey alone, I am sure it would have been past 5,000 easily.
Once I got to the KidCon portion, I was delighted by some of the hands-on activities. I do wish that the KidCon was closer to the other panels and sessions, though probably every room had to be used. Maybe nothing can be helped to have KidCon be closer. I was also surprised that it was practically one really opened-up room without any dedicated rooms where you could close the door and focus better on the presentation.
Between the distance (not to be helpful to anyone with strollers) and the awkward placement of booths and activities, I certainly hope FanX improves this portion of their event.
For general sessions, many special guests mention, “Oh, there are children in the room!” This could be another factor to why the language is cleaner at FanX than any other comic conventions. Though, as I shared in Part 2 focusing on humor, I have a feeling the special guests are more respectful in language due to direct or indirect guidance from FanX administration.
Timpanogos Storytelling lets the Utah Storytelling Guild hold a “Meet n’ Mingle” each year. People trickle in to this Meet n’ Mingle. What starts as 15 people at least doubles 10 minutes later. Most people are from Utah and share what chapter they come from while a few people from out-of-state like Ron Chick (California-though a dues-paying USG member) or Karla Huntsman (Nevada-used to live in Utah and still pays dues) or Rachel Ann Harding (Colorado-has Story Story podcast). Lately, Richard Thurman, the Founding Executive Director of the Utah Renaissance Faire, attends to get to know the storytellers and see who is willing and able to tell such period pieces. He was pleased with the story fortune telling provided through Story Crossroads.
As people roam from tent to tent and session to session, there are reunions filled with hugs and laughter. I look forward to all the connections. Some people I got to see were Beth Ohlsson–ETSU classmate with the Masters in Storytelling who also told on the Timp stage, Jay McLaughlin-friend from Texas who I used to see all the time through National Storytelling Conferences and the Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance (YES!), and Katie Ufford-Key person in organizing the Vernal Storytelling Festival.
However, despite all these happy reunions, there were not other Meet n’ Mingles set up except for the Utah Storytelling Guild. Could there be some gatherings during the lunch hour for certain groups of people? True, there are the Swappin’ Groups open mike for Adults and Youth. I would love to see more than the listening. What of discussions and conversations?
Then you have FanX with a long list of cosplay gatherings, Dungeons & Dragons gaming, and other panels that give the chance of having more lasting connections than a quick hug, shaking of hands, or a snap of the phone for a picture.
Here is an example of some of the gatherings or “worlds” or “fandoms” or “cosplay meet-ups,” as usually phrased: Kick-Off for Cosplay (any kind); “Blast from the Past” Cosplay; The Boys of Summer, Sandlot; Fantasy, Fairies and LOTR (Lord of the Rings); Anne of Green Gables; Stars of the CW; Flash; RWBY; Kids of Cosplay; Families that Cosplay, etc.
Then you have the different types of Role Playing Groups where you can interact. Here, too, there are so many themes depending on your mood. The groups from this past FanX were: Battle of the Undead Monster; City’s Sewers Underhive; Evil Archmage’s Dungeon; Haunted Elvish Village; The Dragon’s Horde.
Evermore, an immersive role-playing theme park, had several actors in garb do a presentation. Afterwards, many people stayed in the hallways to chat with these people in-character. An impromptu sea shanty was sung by the Evermore pirate. He taught us what we could sing. More and more people gathered around. Another person took a piece of luggage and transformed it into a drum. It was a rousing and thrilling moment.
Miscellaneous (or opportunities beyond what is obvious to the event):
Timpanogos Storytelling celebrates many arts from pottery to puppetry to music. Each of those arts has their own tent/area.
People have to arrive early at the pottery tent before all the slots are filled. Anywhere from 3-7 potters assist mostly kids–and the occasional adult–on creating a goblet, bowl, a castle tower, or something experimental (as with my abstract tulip tower). As I bring my sons to Timpanogos, this is one of their favorite activities. There is also an area to simply work with clay and make as many clay snakes as you want…or something more complex. You are only limited by your imagination.
The Puppetry Arts Guild of Utah have brought vintage and antique puppets behind glass cases as well as a huge ninja man. Okay, so I don’t know the puppet’s name but that is what it reminds me of with all the kicks that kids make it do. It is one large marionette encased by a wooden crate of some sort as the kids learn how to bring this ninja man to life. There has also been either a dragon or dinosaur head (dragons and dinosaurs are related, right?) that people can turn and move using super strong rods and pulleys. Joe Flores, who heads the Puppetry Arts Guild, dedicates much time in sharing details when people listen. Sometimes you can’t hear him. That is when he does miming. Though his stories speak volumes.
The music at Timpanogos ranges from the idyllic to the country and jazz to rousing tunes. These are professional musicians who know how to tell a story through their instruments–whether that be vocal or otherwise. Sometimes, we get to hear stories between sets. Sam Payne was first a musician and then delved more into the world of storytelling due to Timpanogos. Now he hosts The Apple Seed Storytelling Radio Show through BYU Radio. With the 30th Anniversary of Timpanogos, almost all of Friday, September 6th was live-streamed.
Other opportunities are Swappin’ Grounds open mike for adults and youth, academic discussions on various storytelling topics, and exploring the 55-acres of Ashton Gardens. There are 15 themed gardens with some being: a secret garden; an aromatic garden with plants that smell like chocolate, mint, and many kinds of fruit; and “I Am the Light of the World” sculpture garden with many images of Christ’s life on earth. My boys love walking behind the waterfall. They laugh that the waterfall can be turned on and off though it is majestic despite knowing this detail.
FanX is massive as it takes over the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Vendor Hall alone feels as expansive as the 55-acres of Ashton Gardens. At least that is what my feet told me after a day at FanX. The artist alley is inspiring to see so many styles to put ink, chalk, pencil, pen, or any other media to paper, wood, metal, and on and on.
The people from Utah Pirate/R.E.A.C.H. Utah are always there with two massive pirate ships that kids can climb up, slide on, and holler out things like, “Ahoy there!” and “Ye landlubber must walk the plank!”
Many photo ops are available from a replica for Doctor Who’s Tardis to Golem to a life-sized Batman. As most people are dressed up in some way, people like to stop each other. One lady dressed as April from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She said that she was on the look-out for anyone else dressed from that Fandom. Then, he came upon a little boy dressed as one the Turtles. The mother was so touched when “April” wanted a picture with her son. Later on, the mother wanted to discover who the person was that made her son feel comfortable and excited for going to FanX. Someone recognized “April” on Facebook, the mother shared her thanks, and now they can celebrate this moment.
The KidCon has many STEM activities including two inflatable planetariums that could each hold about 25-30 people while someone pointed out the stars. Maybe in the future there would be constellation stories told in there. Okay, now I am distracted thinking of star stories across cultures…I’m back.
The panels on film and books are expected at FanX. As Timpanogos has academic discussions on storytelling, so does FanX have more serious talks for budding authors. I attended a panel called, “Ask a New York Times Bestselling Author Anything (About Writing).” I even dared to ask a question about book proposals and what their editor told them or what they suspected their editors thought. Jennifer Nielsen said that there are books that sell and there are books that make lists. Your aim is for a book to make lists, create a buzz, and have word-of-mouth be your friend.
I could go on and on much like I could go on and on about all the fun to be had at both Timpanogos Storytelling and FanX.
So you curious as to my scores? Who wins?
Multi-Generational Approach: Timpanogos Storytelling wins by HUGE margin, no close call here
Mingling Possibilities: FanX wins by HUGE margin, also no close call here
Miscellaneous (or opportunities beyond what is obvious to the event):Tie for Timpanogos Storytelling and FanX
These scores added to the previous categories are as follows:
Timpanogos Storytelling: 1 point for the humor category, 1 point for the multi-generational category, 1 point for miscellaneous
Total for Timpanogos Storytelling = 3 points
FanX: 1 point for the spine tingling category, 1 point for mingling possibilities, 1 point for miscellaneous
Total for FanX = 3 points
Part 5 will explore the most prevalent theme of the event and the ultimate score also known as “My Final Verdict.”
Until we tell again.