Ed Stivender was no newcomer to the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival when I first had the opportunity of hearing him tell a story. But prior to actually seeing him in person, I had checked out several of his storytelling cassettes and CDs from the Orem Public Library just to be a bit familiar with his stories as I was set to be an emcee that year. I discovered that Ed Stivender was cut from a whole different cloth, both as a man and a storyteller.
A devout Catholic, Ed had a rigorous Jesuit parochial school education, which afforded him the opportunity to add some levity to many things Catholic. A “Catholic Garrison Keillor” is what some have called him. Gifted with a razor sharp wit and more than a fair amount of musical talent on the banjo, his stories delighted me with their fresh approach to the familiar old stories, such a Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk. Having heard him on cassette, I anxiously awaited the opportunity to hear him in person. I was not disappointed!
Delighted by the two days of stories at Mt. Timpanogos Park in Provo Canyon, I eagerly looked forward to just what he’d pull out of his hat at the Saturday evening SCERA Shell “Laughin’ Night” performance where a jam-packed crowd of several thousand would be primed for the lineup of storytellers that evening. Ed was slated to be one of the last storytellers that evening, and the preceding tellers had so heightened the laughter and enjoyment of that evening’s stories that when Ed came to the stage we were ready for something extraordinary. Ed turned improv storyteller par excellence as he wove audience participation into a story that took more hilarious twists and turns than an old moonshiner’s still. The unbridled laughter was infectious. We all caught the storytelling bug that night!