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The (Other) Oldest Profession: Storytelling in Utah

Storytelling has been practiced since the beginning of time. There are many storytelling events and festivals in Utah celebrating this oldest profession.


Kristen Clay – Storyteller

No, not THAT profession! Get your mind out of the gutter! It’s storytelling! Storytelling has been practiced since the beginning of time. 

It has been documented that there have been primitive civilizations who functioned without the use of the wheel and yet, they had storytellers. These storytellers of old were instrumental in passing on traditions, genealogies, songs, tales of creation, and survival, all through the oral tradition. This was especially important in societies who lacked a written language. In ancient times, the storyteller was revered, and in many cultures, the storyteller was considered holy. Without the storyteller, people would not know who they are, where they come from, or what amazing things they can accomplish or overcome.

The storyteller connected generations, connected cultures, and connected people’s shared experiences of struggles and victories.  Story is all about connection!

Although storytellers are not necessarily venerated in the same manner today, their function in our modern society is still essential. Especially in the current COVID-19, aka, “Great Isolation” condition of which we are all a part, we need connection more than ever. 

Storytelling is as much for adults as it is for children and teens. Stories provide safe metaphors for us to apply to ourselves as we journey through the ups and downs of our lives. Stories give us perspective, courage, and perseverance as we slay the dragons and overcome the obstacles that confront us. The collective struggle in stories connects us to those who have endured, failed, succeeded, created, and triumphed.

In today’s modern world we are inundated by storytelling in many formats such as television shows, movies, books, art, music, etc. Nevertheless, storytelling in its time-honored oral tradition is still thriving today. The Utah Storytelling Guild provides opportunities and coaching for all levels of storytellers and listeners. 

Getting into the spirit of storytelling at the Timpanogas Storytelling Festival. Photo courtesy of the Timpanogas Storytelling Festival.

Utah celebrates the oral Storytelling tradition in three major festivals and many smaller festivals throughout the year. 

Beginning in January, Laurie Allen, storyteller and founder, invites both beginners and professionals to perform at the Clearfield Storytelling Festival.

The Weber State Storytelling Festival is held the last week in February and brings in Storytellers from across the country. It is one of the largest festivals in the country to feature students as performers.

Story Crossroads is an up and coming Storytelling Festival that features storytellers and presenters from around the world. It features house concerts throughout the year as well as the Story Crossroads Festival in May. Founder and chairperson Rachel Headman created a Virtual Storytelling Spectacular in May 2020 due to the “Great Isolation” shutdown. You may watch it online

On September 10-12, the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival celebrated its 31st year as one of the most beloved storytelling festivals in the nation. Audiences and performers, young and old, come from all corners of the globe to connect through the art of story in the tranquility of Ashton Gardens at Thanksgiving Point: 

There may be changes this year in many of the storytelling venues (and in our lives), but that’s okay because stories help us to be flexible and to face the unknown in whatever form it may come. 

Anyone can be a storyteller, so tell stories. Tell true stories, made-up stories, historical stories, funny stories, scary stories, family stories, personal stories, myths, legends, fairy tales. Tell stories, listen to stories, and help to revive this ancient art form.

Rachel Headman of Story Crossroads reminds us that, “Right now people need hope and people need connection. Storytelling is one of the fastest ways to connect.”


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