Cap’s Off to You!-Denise Valentine (Posthumously) and Celebrating Story

Denise ValentineFeaturing:  Denise Valentine (Posthumously)

Story Mama, Historical Teller and Chautauqua Extraordinaire, Keeper of Traditions

Denise Valentine – Story Mama – had much to share around the world as museums, libraries, and schools opened their doors to her.  She said, “My purpose is to build storytelling skills, tools and techniques needed to: reclaim their ancestral names and homeland, reclaim their stories and the authority to become the “storyholders” in their communities.”  She traveled to South Africa and studied folklore traditions and then jumped to Jamaica and performed for festivals there.  She often welcomed her audiences in more than one language and got people dancing before even getting to the stories.  She delighted in being a member of the National Association of Black Storytellers and was also part of a delegation in connection with the National Storytelling Network.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADenise was 60 years old when a heart attack came upon her, and a message went out for extra prayers.  Our family sent out prayers as many all over did.  Then, I learned that on March 22, 2020, Denise had passed on.  I remembered those last hugs when Denise took the plane at the end of our 2018 Story Crossroads Festival.  For most of the time, she was herself and at the very end of it all, she became Sojourner Truth.  She sang with that lovely voice of hers and thrilled my heart in wanting to know the words of that song as well as she did.

Now a Denise Moment:

When Denise Valentine from Pennsylvania came for the 3rd Annual Story Crossroads Festival, we had her stand and be recognized by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (since renamed as The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square).  She specialized in West African stories of her ancestry.  Amazingly, the Choir also recognized the President and Board with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  Beyond the Broadcast, the Choir did the negro national anthem.  Denise was moved to tears.  We both got to shake hands with the President of the NAACP, who was interested in Denise’s work and she invited him and the Board to the Festival.  The Salt Lake Chapter said they would post it on their webpage.  Later that same day, Denise mentioned to me that she is Buddhist and felt that Utah was such a welcoming place of all cultures.


Then, the next day was an article in the Salt Lake Tribune that I shared with Denise so we could reflect on those lovely memories:



More Impressions with Denise:

The Utah Cultural Celebration Center block-booked Denise Valentine on behalf of Redwood Elementary in the Granite School District.  I watched as the 4th-6th graders ate up all her words.  When Denise announced her time was up, the students all groaned, “No!”  When I checked in with the principal later, she said that this outreach performance in the morning was so impactful that she heard kids still talking about Denise at lunchtime.


Another Snippet:

We invited many congressmen to the Story Crossroads Festival. Mia Love was in Washington D.C. though sent Mike Squires on her behalf.  This representative said he fell in love after the first words spoken by Denise Valentine.  He was convinced to linger longer and also experienced our self-led Story Walk and was “adopted” by an elementary class for that activity.

May 23, 2018--Denise Valentine Performing, taken by Suzanne Hudson

Learning Moment:

I was privileged to attend a 5-hour Intensive Workshop led by Denise Valentine entitled “Walking in Their Shoes: Living History and Storytelling.”  We met in the home of one of our Board Members and enjoyed a heart-to-heart on why we delve into historical pieces in the first place.  She taught a process that she called “unforgetting and reconnecting.”  She had a skill with archival materials such as maps, plantations diaries, and oral histories.  As she studied these items, she connected odd coincidences of people, places, and objects.  Then, she expanded this further to parallel the past with the present.  It was mind-boggling stuff and I wish I could remember all the fascinating details she tumbled out of her mouth.  Obviously, I already understood and experienced extreme research when telling historical tales.  Though, taking the time to delve deeper—whether it made it to stage or not—can affect how you perceive and take meaning from the world around you.

What Now?:

I wish to honor Denise Valentine more so than this blog post.  Tossing around in my mind is the possibility of having a Zoom Panel to honor her as well as feature historical/Chautauqua tales and why we as humans are drawn to presenting in this way.  This is still in brainstorm mode, though any details will be shared through Facebook and our website.  We will likely use a Zoom Webinar where people can register for free and then be given the link after that registration.

The news of Denise Valentine’s passing is still fresh for me and I want to have the blessing of her family before anything is set in stone.

Remember…Death is not the end.  We miss her here, though Death is the beginning of her new adventure.  I know she is making those unforgettable connections and having people drop their jaws at her discoveries there.  I can imagine a reunion with her friends and family who have gone before and also a special visit from Sojourner Truth herself.  I picture her singing, too.  Now “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” will have even greater meaning to me.  I look forward to when we all see each other again.

Where You Can Hear Her:

We do have footage of her performing and presenting through Story Crossroads, though this will take time as we want to go through her family before anything is available.

I appreciate Denise for the influence of yesterday, today, and forever in storytelling and her authentic and beautiful spirit of love.

Denise still has a story.  You have a story.  We all have stories.

Cap’s Off to You!–The Story Mine / David Bullock & Cathy Barker – and Celebrating Story

The Story Mine collage - David Bullock and Cathy BarkerFeaturing:  The Story Mine / David Bullock & Cathy Barker

7-Year Radio Show with 344 Episodes

The Story Mine radio show on KPCW brought storytelling to people who needed to discover the art.  David Bullock and Cathy Barker volunteered their time to make sure each 30-minute episode was compiled, edited, and ready to air every Sunday morning at 8:30am for seven years. They had no paid staff.  They had no funds from KPCW to gather in the material.  They invited Utah storytellers to record for free in their studio. This dedication from David and Cathy shone as bright as gold on the radio waves and into the homes of people in Park City, in Utah, and around the world.  Storytellers known locally and internationally were featured with the hard-to-believe-but-true commentary from David and Cathy. These people, amazing storytellers in their own right, gave their all to others.  The Story Mine will forever be treasured.

David Bullock and Cathy Barker are a husband and wife team like no other.  They decided to live in a cabin among the mountains and be surrounded by story full-time.  Not that anyone else could have adventures, but how many people come upon moose and bear on a regular basis?  And of the two, moose are certainly more dangerous.  David can attest to it–and share on stage–but that is another story.

In fact, when I approached David about doing this piece, he said, “We have had so many near Deer misses in the past few weeks. Oh the stories I could tell.  It’s been way below 0 degrees for several nights. Our water lines froze but we took care of it and haven’t had problems since. We really do enjoy our life up here. Who gets to Snowmobile to get to or away from their home?”

I reminded David that on Facebook he said that it got to -9 degrees.  He then responded, “It’s wonderful up here.  I could dazzle you with stories about my encounters with Sasquatch but you’d think I was telling a Tall Tale. I love stories.”

Rather than focusing on himself, David made sure the credit was given where it was due and declared, “Cathy is the best Program Manager and Producer at the Station.”  David added, “While other Radio Storytelling programs have a full staff to produce a show, the Story Mine had [us], Volunteers at KPCW.” Before The Story Mine became The Story Mine, David had already been sharing 3-minute stories on KPCW “Tales From The Wasatch Back” in 2011 and 2012.

Here are more moments shared in David’s words:

In the Summer of 2012, Cathy and [I] approached the Management of KPCW about airing a Storytelling Radio Broadcast Program, which would feature stories told by Storytellers from all around the World. [We] were asked to Produce a “Pilot” show to demonstrate what [we] had to offer. Three separate Pilots were produced by [us] and submitted to the Board of Directors. [The] proposal was heartily accepted and the first Story Mine program was Aired/Streamed across the globe on October 7, 2012 featuring Author Stacy Dymalski, a Humorist Amy Tisovic, and Beloved Local Storyteller, Karl Behling.

Name a well known Storyteller and that teller has probably shared their tales with The Story Mine. Local Storytellers were also invited to come into the Mine and record their Stories so they could be shared with the world. 

The Story Mine was a labor of Love. Cathy and I found a way to gain free access to a Multi Million dollar Recording Studio, (KPCW Park City, Utah) one of the most awarded and successful NPR affiliates in the United States, to share our love of Story and help Foster this wonderful performance art.

I asked David about favorite moments or shows, and he responded:

It’s hard to pick a favorite show, we loved producing and listening to them all. One of our favorite shows was when Cathy and I did a dramatic reading of Mark Twain’s Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, it was just like the real characters were  here. Another was our 2012 Christmas show when Santa Visited the Story Mine and got Mud all over the floor of the Mine Tunnel. That one was an impromptu performance starring Cathy, [me] and Santa Himself. It was so rewarding to play back the recording and listen to what we spontaneously came up with. Having fun like that made us want to put a recording studio in our basement -so we did. We had a little company called Barking Dog Productions. 

As for what David and Cathy see as the greatest impact in their own lives, David shared:

I guess the best reward we got out of volunteering all of our time and energies to our Weekly Sunday Morning Radio Show, was the meeting and associating with so many wonderful people who shared common interests. 

Then I remembered when David Bullock announced the final episode for The Story Mine.  July 8, 2019 was the farewell performance.  My own world was on pause–it seemed unreal.  Though, I breathed again, the world continued forward, and I reflected on how much fun I had in listening to that show.

David explained:

The Station had plans to change their Weekend Morning programming to an NPR format, and rather than going to a different time slot, Cathy and [I] chose to go out and again, find and tell [our] own Stories.

I could practically see the sparkle and gleam in David’s eyes when he said, “Boy, do we have stories to tell.”

So toss, tip, or take off your cap to The Story Mine / David Bullock & Cathy Barker!

We also have year-round events such as the monthly house concerts and the 5th Annual Story Crossroads Festival that will be on May 13, 2020.

Cap’s Off to You!–Jerri and Katie Hurley – Mother/Daughter Duo – and Celebrating Story

Jerri and Katie Hurley collageJerri Hurley came into the world of storytelling due to the talent of her daughter, Katie.  For the past three Story Crossroads Festivals, Katie has earned one of the cherished spots through one of our feed-in events, the Murray Storytelling Festival.  Not even half of these wonderful Murray youth tellers continue on to the county-level of our Festival. This in and of itself is amazing.  Then, add to that the volunteerism from Jerri who serves as the Hospitality Chair with the Story Crossroads Board.

DSC_0033Jerri said she was impressed by the Festival and all the ways that the community became involved.  She wished to support Story Crossroads. Jerri sent along a picture of Katie with Mara Menzies, one of our featured tellers of that year from Scotland.

We gladly welcomed Jerri. In return, she welcomed our out-of-state professional story artists to the Salt Lake Valley and personalized the items that the story artists could take home with them to remember Utah. For  example, she knew that Brian “Fox” Ellis loved bird watching. He received a book on Utah birds and then Jerri worked out a trip for Brian to go to the planned a trip to Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge between performances and outreaches for Story Crossroads.  She also honored the amazing Utah professional story artists with special goodie bags.

During August, the Granite School District invited Rachel Hedman to teach two different storytelling workshops while introducing people to Story Crossroads.  Rachel knew this only could be done if each of the workshops were kicked off with a youth teller performing for these teachers.  Katie Hurley was one of these selected youth.  She did a wonderful rendition of “Tops and Bottoms” on two neighbors figuring out how to share what they have grown.

Then last September, Story Crossroads had the opportunity to have a booth at the Boy Scouts of America Jamboral celebrating 100 years in Utah.  Jerri and Katie volunteered to help out.  As Janine Nishiguchi and Rachel Hedman performed tandem ghost stories the night before with the Scouts and Leaders, this spooky theme continued on with the booth.  The people spun the Scary Story Starter and found out which one of the four beginnings would be theirs to build and shake our bones.  One lady told the Hurleys that this was the best booth in the entire Jamboral.  There was always a line of Scouts, anxious to tell stories…and to earn one to four pieces of candy depending on how developed their stories turned out.

To handle the lines, Katie decided to perform for a small group of Scouts.  Katie has grown her repertoire after a few years telling for the Murray Storytelling Festival and the Story Crossroads Festival.  One of the groups of Scouts were those with special needs.  All were enthralled.

Jerri captured some of the moments as seen in the pictures above.  She wrote to us, “Katie is loving helping out with the booth.”  We know that we will count on Katie–and her mother–many more times.

So toss, tip, or take off your cap to Jerri and Katie Hurley!

We also have year-round events such as the monthly house concerts and the 4th Annual Story Crossroads Festival that will be on May 15, 2019.

Cap’s Off to You!–Karl Behling – Mountain Man – and Celebrating Story

Karl Behling - Mountain Man collage

Karl Behling is either in disguise as a teacher who then becomes a storytellin’ Mountain Man or a storytellin’ teacher who then becomes a Mountain Man. Either way, he brings such delight with the Mountain Man Petting Zoo.  There are no live animals at a Mountain Man Petting Zoo. The pelts are spread out and it’s the safest way to pet a coyote or fox. Though, as Sam Payne joked, there is still a “live” Mountain Man.  Karl is as “live” as they come. We asked if Karl could do this Mountain Man Petting Zoo as part of our first year of offering hands-on story activities with the 3rd Annual Story Crossroads Festival on May 23, 2018. He said yes.  All went well…and then Mother Nature hit.

The night before the Festival, it had poured and pounded with rain. We thought a back-up plan would be needed as the daytime part is held at the Murray City Park. Thankfully, we did not need to use that plan. The morning of May 23rd, the ominous dark-clouded sky transformed into robin-egg-blue sky with puffs of white. Karl Behling could set up his canopy and furs amongst the freshly watered green grass.  The stream behind him bubbled more wildly and the butterflies returned from their shelters.

Students upon students met Karl and discovered some Mountain Man games. Some kids drew the Mountain Man Petting Zoo as one of their favorite experiences at the Festival. Sometimes as many as five kids were petting the same pelt. Karl introduced them to turtle poop…or what came out of his turtle shell bag that seemed to be jelly beans.  Or was it?  There is a piece highlighting Karl with the Apple Seed storytelling radio show archived here:

When it was time to pack up at the Murray City Park, the sun still shone. There were hints of rain. Karl was one of the last to gather his things but not in time to save his canopy and whooshed back from a gush of wind. The canopy got bent and ripped. We did not learn of until a few weeks later.  He said he wanted us to not worry and focus on the amazing time that everyone had as storytellers and story listeners.

No worries. Karl will have a canopy again. And canopy or no canopy, he is always ready to share stories.  In fact, for the 2019 Story Crossroads Festival, he will share stories from a Mountain Man’s perspective of the different cultures that made the Transcontinental Railroad possible. The Golden Spike was hammered in on May 10, 1869. As our Festival lands on May 15, 2019, we wanted to celebrate along with much of the state of Utah. Karl will share these pieces on Wednesday night, May 15th at the South Jordan Community Center and then again at the Gale Center of History and Culture on May 28th.

Learn more about Karl Behling here:

So toss, tip, or take off your cap to Karl Behling!

We also have year-round events such as the monthly house concerts and the 4th Annual Story Crossroads Festival that will be on May 15, 2019.

Cap’s Off to You!–Diamond Rental (Randy Rutherford) and Celebrating Story

Diamond Rental collage.pngDiamond Rental–and specially Randy Rutherford–have been so important to have enough chairs for the 2017 and 2018 Story Crossroads Festivals.  Then came an urgent need to be solved in a few days.  We had microphones and amplifiers reserved though another organization and found out a couple days before the Festival that they would no longer be available.  I scrambled to figure out options and thought of who of my friends had their own microphones.  Luckily, we already were counting on the sound equipment of the ever-generous Annie and Dan Eastmond.  Finally, I called Randy at Diamond Rental.  “We are certainly glad you are providing those 100 extra chairs for free…any chance we can get four microphones and two amplifiers next week?”

Randy had to call around to see if the equipment was available in such a short amount of time.  He called back and said that almost all was covered.  He was short two microphone stands.  Thankfully, Parkside Elementary next to the Murray City Park offered two of their microphone stands and our sound crisis was averted.

I told Randy that I felt bad that the programs were already printed because that jumped up the in-kind donation to another level.  I promised we would place Diamond Rental up for the 2019 Festival.  Luckily, we can also celebrate here through this blog.

Diamond Rental’s motto is “What you need when you need it.”  Here Randy helped us out  exactly when we needed it.

Learn more about Diamond Rental here:

You can also see a video explaining services and equipment here plus I discovered this video clip of a story of a different situation from Paul who had to solve something quick and received help from Diamond Rental.

So toss, tip, or take off your cap to Diamond Rental (Randy Rutherford)!

We also have year-round events such as the monthly house concerts and the 4th Annual Story Crossroads Festival that will be on May 15, 2019.