Lyn Ford, a featured storyteller on this year’s Timpanogos Storytelling Festival roster, was born into a storytelling family, but never expected storytelling to become her career. “Stories were part of any day—from personal stories, to teaching tales, to folktales, ghost stories, and literary works,” Ford says. “My dad and my maternal grandfather were the best storytellers I ever heard.”
She liked going places with her dad who would often get lost on the journey. He’d then tell her stories she later told her siblings—stories they had never heard. He was the best storyteller she knew in her life, she said, so she modeled her storytelling after him. “It started as a teaching tool for my preschool class of three-year-olds and my volunteer work in our children’s schools.”
Now in her 30th year of telling full-time, Lyn is returning to the Festival for the fourth time. “I’ve loved every festival,” Ford said. “I love seeing the ‘aha moments’ on the faces of listeners and hearing folks laugh. I love knowing we’ve connected and become a community through story sharing.”
Lyn’s mother says Ford started telling stories at the age of three. “But that means I’ve been telling stories for 67 years!” she said. “Oooh. That’s a long time!” She is known for what she has dubbed “Affrilachian” Tales: Folktales from the African-American Appalachian Tradition.
She received the 2013 Anne Izard Storytellers’ Choice and Storytelling World Awards for her book, Affrilachian Tales. Beyond the Briar Patch, referred to as “a cultural treasury” by the Midwest Book Review, was also an Anne Izard Storytellers’ Choice Award winner. Hot Wind Boiling Rain is now a 2017 Storytelling Resource Award-winner for the story, By Another Name.
Ford was the first storyteller in Ohio to be nominated for a Governor’s Award for the Arts. She refers to her mix of folktale adaptations, spooky tales, and original stories based on her multicultural storytelling traditions as “home-fried tales.” Her stories and programs are often enriched with rhythm and rhyme, humor, heart, and choral response.
Whether it’s funny or poignant, sad or joyful, a story has the power to connect people on a deeper level, says storyteller and first-class fiddler Josh Goforth. “I just love a good story,” Goforth says. “I learn so much from watching other tellers.”
Josh grew up in Madison County, North Carolina, surrounded by the music and stories of his ancestors. At the age of four, he was already playing the piano in church. “I grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Folks loved a good tune and a good tale. Many times, I would go to someone’s house to learn a fiddle tune and walk out with a good story.”
A performance in the sixth grade “really lit the fuse” of his musical career. He later learned from local masters and musicians and toured extensively with a variety of ensembles including David Holt, Laura Boosinger, and several bluegrass bands like the Appalachian Trail, the Josh Goforth Trio, the Steep Canyon Rangers, and Open Road. “I had always told small stories in my solo concerts, but when I started working with David Holt 20 years ago, he told me, ‘You should elaborate on those stories and work up some of that material. You could definitely tell at storytelling festivals.’ I was able to get on at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN, to tell a 12-minute story, and I’ve been doing it ever since!”
Josh has performed in all 50 states, in Europe, Asia, and Australia. He has been a featured performer at the Grand Ole Opry, the Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall. His fiddling was also featured in the movie, Songcatcher in 2000.
Josh plays bluegrass and country, and is on the faculty of the Academy for the Arts in Asheville. “I love the process of bringing to life these characters I grew up with for my audience. It’s so wonderful to know that they are still alive through stories. But honestly, I think the best part
about storytelling is listening. I learn so much from watching other tellers, I love a good story, and I love sharing stories. When someone shares a story, it might spark a memory in us. Hearing each other tell stories connects us in a powerful way. I always leave a festival knowing a little bit more about someone and a little bit more about myself.”
Josh has been to the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival before and calls it a festival where he feels like he’s with family. “Everyone is so kind, and what great listeners!” Josh’s telling and fiddling will be featured at the 33rd Annual Timpanogos Storytelling Festival at Thanksgiving Point, September 8-10, 2022.