A Short History – Part 2

Written by Karen Ashton


The Second Year


News of the Festival spread rapidly. By the second year the Friends had expanded the hours of the Festival, planned an additional evening performance at the SCERA Shell, borrowed another field for a fourth performance tent, and invited school groups to the Friday morning performances. The biggest surprise was dealing with all the school buses. One Provo elementary school brought their entire student body! Five of the best storytellers in the nation were on the program and a variety of musicians performed.

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A New Children’s Library


The Festival grew year after year until the funds raised could be combined with private donations and a city bond to build a beautiful children’s library complete with a storytelling wing and stained-glass windows portraying characters from stories throughout the ages.  It was bright, it was beautiful, and it was perfect.  




In 1996, the Festival outgrew the Ashton lawns and neighboring horse pasture and moved to the Olmstead property at the mouth of Provo Canyon. They added more tents to spacious lawns, used charming old buildings for hosting and merchandise, and enjoyed several years under the tall shady trees of the Olmstead. They added more storytellers year after year, added youth tellers to the program, and attendance grew.


A Permanent Home


In the meantime, the City of Orem decided to build a new park just up the canyon from the Olmstead property.  They took the needs of the Festival into consideration as they designed the park and, in 2005, the Festival was moved from the amazing Olmstead location to the beautiful, new Mt. Timpanogos Park at the foot of the majestic mountain after which the Festival was named.

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Helping Others Tell Their Stories


In 2006 TSI and the City of Orem started the Timpanogos Storytelling Conference to help others tell their stories in their personal and professional lives. In 2011, the National Youth Storytelling Showcase was given a permanent home at the conference.


Over the years they have produced “The Call of Story” for PBS television; “What’s Your Story,” a five-part how-to series taught by master teller and teacher, Donald Davis; and “Make It, Tell It, Write It,” another how-to video for student, also taught by Donald Davis.




In 2012, the Timpanogos Storytelling Institute was formed, again with Karen Ashton at the helm. Their first employee was hired and a board was organized to run Festival and other programs. The Institute has since expanded to two full-time employees.


A New Location


In 2016, the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival and Conference moved from their home in Orem to a new location at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah. After years of continued growth, moving the Festival north to Thanksgiving Point allowed organizers to better accommodate increased attendance from northern counties and schools as well as provide additional parking and other amenities. Festival organizers also decided to move the event to one week later in the year to better accommodate school and teacher schedules and allow attendees and volunteers with other Labor Day traditions to participate. The new Thanksgiving Point venues, largely centered in the amazing Ashton Gardens, will provide a beautiful location for the Festival and Conference to continue to grow.


Although TSI and Orem City are no longer partners in producing the Festival, both groups are proud of the impact they had together in the Orem community. Their joint efforts helped to spur the building of the Orem Public Library’s Children’s Wing and provided the Library ongoing programming and materials, including helping to build the nation’s largest public storytelling collection. Both groups are committed to continuing to offer joint events for the Orem community. In addition, funding generated by the Festival is part of the Orem Public Library’s efforts to build a new library auditorium.

3 Responses

  1. Amber says:

    Great post.

  2. Lori Yunk says:

    I really enjoyed learning about this- thank you!

  3. Joanne Staheli says:

    My family and friends have enjoyed all 24 years of this festival! It is a tradition for us. Thank you for providing such a worthwhile, meaningful family event year after year!

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