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Andy Irwin tells stories and whistles for students during the Athens Storytelling Festival on Wednesday. More than 3,000 students from Limestone County schools attended the event.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Andy Irwin tells stories and whistles for students during the Athens Storytelling Festival on Wednesday. More than 3,000 students from Limestone County schools attended the event.

NEWSPAPER IN EDUCATION
Recommended reading
Spinning yarns
in Athens

Storytellers entertain
students at festival

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com · 340-2445

ATHENS — Sure, it was gloomy and a bit chilly in Athens on Wednesday, except under the red-and-white striped tent on the square.

Under that tent, 3,000 Athens and Limestone County children sang along with storyteller Andy Irwin about wanting petroleum jelly in their belly.

They shook their shoulders with storyteller Carmen Deedy during a story about dancing bones.

They nodded with understanding when storyteller Donald Davis told them to beware of mamas when the spaces between their words are bigger than their words, such as, "GIT ... IN ... THIS ... HOUSE!"

And they laughed with storyteller and lying champion Bil Lepp when he told a childhood story about relieving himself in a bully's canteen on a camping trip.

Wednesday kicked off the first day of the Spirit of Athens/Charter Communications Storytelling Festival. Another 3,000 students were to sing, shake, nod and laugh Thursday, and then the public can join in Friday and Saturday.

Animated performers

The performers were so animated Wednesday that sign language teacher Deborah Dobbs of Tanner High had no problem conveying the stories to her hearing-impaired students.

"The kids were following the speakers' movements, and the storytellers had the kids doing hand motions," Dobbs said.

"It was tough signing when I didn't know what they were going to say, and there were some words the kids wouldn't understand, but otherwise, it was fantastic."

In the story about the canteen, for example, Dobbs just translated the word as water bottle.

"This is one of the best things Athens has done," Dobbs said. "We've taken our hearing-impaired kids on field trips where they do a lot of hands-on activities, but this was the first time for them to attend something where they sit so long, and they were entertained. They were excited."

Having an exciting time in downtown is what Spirit of Athens wants to promote. The organization's focus is revitalizing downtown.

"If we want to do that, this is the way to go about it," said Councilman Ronnie Marks. "These children are the future of our city."

Story time in Athens

Tickets still are available for the Storytelling Festival in downtown Athens.

Sessions are Friday on the square from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m., Friday night ghost stories at Big Spring Park in Athens from 10:30 to 11:30 p.m. and Saturday on the square from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m.

Tickets are $30 for the full weekend, $20 Friday only, $5 for Friday night ghost stories and $20 Saturday only.

Get tickets at Pablo’s on Market Street, the Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce or online at www.ticketweb.com.

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