In the late 1980s, Karen Ashton was serving as a member of Orem City’s Library Board. One of her goals was to activate a Friends of the Orem Public Library organization to promote community involvement in the library and help raise funds for a new children’s library. You see, the current children’s section of the library was a dimly lit basement with no restrooms for the children and stairs that were difficult to navigate with strollers and toddlers in tow. Karen wanted something bright and beautiful on the main floor with automatic doors and conveniently located restrooms.
Karen had been volunteering at the library for years, presenting story time for preschoolers and helping with other children’s library programs. After seeing an advertisement in a flight magazine, she decided to attend the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee to gather more ideas for stories and programs for the Orem Public Library.
She went to the National Festival expecting to find ladies telling stories to children in a library. Instead she found thousands of adults crowding into tents, listening to dynamic performers relating tales of history, culture, folk and family life, as well as tall tales, Jack tales, and magical adventures. Karen found what she was searching for. A festival that would bring people together as well as foster community and family values. And it just might do well enough to help build that children’s library that was so badly needed!
Tales Beneath Timp
Karen contacted famed fantasy artist, James Christensen and asked him to create a piece of art that would portray storytelling. The result, “Tales Beneath Timp,” depicted an old storyteller telling to mystical characters at the foot of the majestic Mt. Timpanogos mountain. The old storyteller has come to symbolize the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival.
Putting on a Festival!
Karen Ashton went on to convince businesses in the valley that a storytelling festival would help raise funds for a children’s library and bring quality entertainment to the area. The resulting sponsorships made the event affordable and ensured that dollars raised at the festival would help support the library.
In the meantime, the Friends continued to plan and promote an event they didn’t fully comprehend. The Ashton family opened their home to the community, set up performance areas on their property, and persuaded neighbors to do the same. Livestock was moved and fields were mowed. The Friends pitched tents that blew over with the first gusts of wind before letting a professional company set up sturdy ones. A local bookstore set up shop in the RV garage, food stands were set up on the front lawn, and peaches and ice cream were prepared in the kitchen.
Then, after not knowing if anyone but their families would come, the Festival was underway. Three national storytellers joined a few local tellers and they told stories for two incredible days. It was happy. It was fun. And it helped those who attended realize that they, too, had stories that needed to be shared with family and friends. And that, as they say, was only the beginning.
(Click here to read more of our history.)