Someone come, tell me a story
About the past all filled with glory
Bold young bucks and bolder lasses
Inspiring the timid masses
Spin for me a clever yarn In colored threads to keep me warm -
In heart and mind, when I remember,
Every word a glowing ember.
Build for us somewhere to rest
In a feather-worded nest.
With tranquil tidings tuck us in
‘Til we can face the world again.
Carry me along your path;
Make me cry, then make me laugh.
Then make me do them both again
With merry eyes and quiv’ring chin.
We forget our history,
So bind to us the mystery
Of cruel humanity, and love,
The worm below, the Lord above
Let’s not foolishly dismiss
Such a vital role as this -
Evincing in the fable dweller
The power of the storyteller
“Third-graders are an ALIEN ARMY!” Bil Lepp’s awed voice rang over the tent of fascinated school children. I, having just slipped in the back late in the story, wonder what I missed. I mean, as a mom of two grown children, 3rd graders being aliens isn’t exactly news to me, so I felt he must have been making another point.
He was: How to best the teacher’s pet by throwing rocks into the woods to prove that your teacher is really Wonder Woman in disguise. You’ll need helium, purple chalk, lungs, and the horror flick The Blob.
Ah, got it. Check.
I am on special assignment. A special, OFFICIAL assignment given to me by a REAL LIVE editor to cover a BREAKING EVENT like an actual SEASONED JOURNALIST (not like a newbie tourism assistant who needs to submit an article by Friday).
I think I played it pretty cool, though, as I walked up to the tent and introduced myself with a purposefully level gaze to the security guard. “I’m Stephanie Reynolds. I was asked to cover this by my editor Ali Turner for the Athens Now newspaper. I’ll only be a few minutes.” Brisk. Professional. Nailed it. I wished I had a badge to oh-so-casually flash, but I think pushing my sleeves up to my elbows made me look journalist-y enough. In any case, he laughed and waved me in.
It had been a minute since I had spent an afternoon with grade-schoolers. To be honest, I thought it would be more chaotic and jaded. We get the impression that kids nowadays are even more disaffected than GenX, and as someone who was dark and brooding at 17; wearing black, stonewashed jeans; and listening to The Cure, that’s saying something.
But let me tell you what made my heart grow two sizes this afternoon. The second storyteller, Josh Goforth, regaled us with a tale about the Irish potato famine, a stag who grants wishes, and a poor farmer. The farmer asked his father what he should ask the stag for, and the father said, “GOLD! You must ask for piles of gold!” Then the farmer went to his blind mother who said, “My sight! If I could see the green hills of Ireland again, the blue sky, and your smiling face, that’s all I could wish for!”
Then the storyteller asks (rhetorically, in the voice of the farmer), “Should I do what my father wants and ask for gold or what my mother wants and ask for her sight?”
Y’all, I didn’t hear one child say the gold. I heard many insistently holler that he should ask for sight for his mother.
<Insert jaw drop here>
It occurs to me that, being half-blind myself, I might be just a leeeetle close to this. But as the OFFICIALLY ASSIGNED JOURNALIST that I am (…pretending to be today), I can keep my objectivity, as is fitting for one with newly-discovered Pulitzer aspirations. Plus, I often forget I can’t see till I run into something on my left.
So, much like the obvious aim of the Fiddler’s Convention was “excellent music” but the heart of it was how jam sessions made pockets of safe spaces for people to try regardless of skill level, the Storytelling Festival also has its own much deeper subtext: getting people to think and feel. Gently and disarmingly ducking around preconceived notions and stony walls to help the listener be inherently more than they were that morning.
I mean, think about it—there probably were children who said “GOLD!” when the farmer was deciding his wish. But they heard other children mention the mother’s sight. That had to make them pause, putting themselves in the position of a child of blind mother, or perhaps the mother herself.
And even better, the wish the farmer eventually told the stag was clever and crafted. The story not only reminded the children they have a heart, but it also helped for an actual new thinking pattern in the brain.
To hear the children literally gasp in an “OH! RIGHT!” moment when Bil Lepp mentioned that Wonder Woman would park her invisible jet on the roof, not the woods or parking lot, was delightful. At that moment, they GOT IT. They now know to “Think up,” to look around, to deduce. That little moment is a synapse-seed that will bloom into new intelligence.
On a mild fall afternoon, between aliens and a round of “Turkey In The Straw,” children were strengthened in both heart and mind.
That is the power of a storyteller.
By: Stephanie Reynolds
Athens-Limestone Tourism Association
How does one even begin to introduce oneself in print?
“Hello Athens!”--Eh, generic
“My fellow Athenians”--Entirely too presidential (but putting it in my pocket for later. You never know.)
“Hajimamashite...Hola... annyeonghaseyo...hafa adai!...”--Hmm..fun or pretentious?
Hey! I know! Maybe I should write a poem! --Yeah. No.
I sigh and take a sip of too-hot coffee from a handmade copper tumbler.
“Maybe,” I think hopefully, “That itself was enough of an intro, and I can just move on. People know the first sentence is the hardest. It’s like the first workout or the first date—everything is slightly awkward and official. But once you get past the ‘first’, you can go forever. Or till you hit your word count.”
I’m Stephanie. I just started working for the fabulous Athens Limestone Tourism Association. I have met fabulous people and ate fabulous cake (twice!) in just the first week I was here.
(Why yes, I do own a thesaurus; it’s on my phone. Why do you ask?)
How might I describe myself? Hmm… I think “interested” is pretty fitting. I love to learn and teach. I love to help and explore. I like to think and do. I like to try to relate to everyone in some way. There really is very little I am not willing to try.
And I really love to see what makes other people light up. When someone is in their zone and starts talking in animated rushes, that is one of my absolute favorite things. If you want someone to geek out
with you, I’m your gal.
Some of the things that make me all happy include: teaching (anybody, anything), sitting in quiet thought, swimming, archery, philosophy, Haribo gummy bears, researching anything at all, k-dramas, crocheting, airports, ducks, trail running, rucking (walking with a weighted backpack), cosplay, video games, theology, reading, public speaking, pets, Ani-ramen days (where we have a bunch of folk over to watch anime, win prizes, and eat ramen), YouTube wormholes, sci-fi, fishing, home improvement, emergency management, personal challenge, poetry...honestly, there is very little that I don’t have at least a passing interest in.
I have one degree in psychology, two dogs, three cats, and an assortment of chickens, ducks, peafowl, and homing pigeons. I homeschooled our 2 incredible children, which was positively delightful. We ran our house like a little Renaissance enclave where everyone had their studies and art and research and projects. I also worked in emergency management, mostly doing plan writing, which I love.
I am a third-generation military wife. My grandfather, father-in-law, uncle, father, cousin, aunt, brother, husband, other grandfather all served. I like to say “National Security Is Our Family Business”.
Being military, I never lived anywhere longer than three years and a week until we moved to Alaska in 1999. We spent almost 14 years there until my wonderful husband retired and we knew we needed to come down south to thaw. I LOVE heat and humidity. August in the south is like getting to be in a high class nature sauna, dripping with flowers and fruit and green--but for FREE! I love it.
Quickly we settled on Alabama, then Athens, which brings me to this article...
See, we’ve lived here for 10 years, yet often I hear about some local place or event I haven’t been to.
Not only is that embarrassing as a resident of this wonderful county, but also a little humbling for a budding tourism professional.
It might be the same for some of you. I remember a quote from one of my favorite books “If you visit (a place) for a week, you will see some of the things you want to. If you visit for a month, you will see all the things you want to. But if you live there, you never see anything at all”.
So let’s change that, you and me. Let’s look at Athens and Limestone County with a fresh eye. I’m going to start visiting local events, organizations, areas and report back to you. YOU can help me by bringing me Haribo gummy bears--um, I mean, recommending any organization, artisan group, event, nature place, meeting, etc that you think is a hidden gem.
Stop by and say hello or email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Huh. This reminds me of the time I learned how to firewalk...)
Don't miss the Singing on the Square this Friday night, August 5th, with Randy Waller and Company. Randy is the son of bluegrass legend Charlie Waller (Country Gentlemen).
Like his daddy, Randy’s robust, stately baritone lends itself ably to mainstream country, folk, blues, bluegrass, and any other genre he chooses. Inspired by to all types of music and teaching guitar in Richmond, Randy developed his singing, song writing and musical skills into a solo career, opening for major acts and fronting regional country and country-rock bands.
The band features Randy Waller, Guitar/Vocal, Phil Riddick, Banjo
Russ Holder, Dobro/Vocals, Dustin Young, Mandolin and Adrienne Tabor, Fiddle/Vocals
We would like to welcome our new employee, Tina Morrison, to Athens Limestone County Tourism. Tina was born and raised here in Limestone County and is a graduate of West Limestone High School. She moved away from North Alabama in early 1990's and traveled, lived and worked in London, Australia and Mexico while employed with a global engineering construction company. She found her love of tourism while serving as the Director of the Perdido Key, FL Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center for 7 years. During her tenure there, she obtained a one million dollar tourism promotional grant to bring visitors back to the beach after the 2010 oil spill. During covid in 2020, Tina returned back to Limestone County to be closer to family and is absolutely thrilled about her new employment with Athens Limestone County Tourism. "My world travels help me relate to what visitors are looking for. I've sang the praises of Alabama all over the world and the chance to promote tourism in my hometown is simply a dream come true." Tina has 3 grown children and 3 granddaughters and her hobbies are music, camping, hiking, biking and kayaking. She will be assisting the Tourism President, Teresa Todd with Marketing, Events, and day to day operations of the Athens Limestone Visitors Center at 100 N. Beaty St. in Athens.
We welcome Tina to the team!
A note from Athens Limestone Community Association...
Athens Limestone Community Association is proud to celebrate the 2022 Black History with a film remembering the achievements of Dr. C. Eric Lincoln, a 1941 Trinity High School Graduate and his central role in U.S. history. We were honored to be contacted by Clark Atlanta University and Mrs. Lucy Lincoln to create this film for the 39th Annual C. Eric Lincoln Lectureship Series for the Clark Atlanta University under the leadership of Mr. Frank Travis and associates.
We ask the Trinity alumni and friends to pay their $100 annual pledge and we gratefully accept other donations. We are eagerly awaiting your assistance in raising the $98,000 needed in matching funds to apply for a $490,000 grant to complete the Fort Henderson Memorial and the Trinity History Center at the Trinity-Fort Henderson Complex. The ALCA has already begun to memorialize the service of U.S. Colored Troops in Athens by beginning to create the Fort Henderson Memorial, which ultimately will feature a park with monuments, historic interpretive markers and a well-lit walking trail and stone wall around the fort outline. The historic interpretive markers were created and installed in 2020, with many thanks for your support in partnership with the American Battlefield Trust.
If you are unable to be with us for this great celebration, please mail your donations to ALCA P.O. Box 1476, Athens, AL 35612, a 501 (c) (3) organization. We look forward to your support for these historic projects.
Athens Main Street - Chocolate Walk
Do you love all things chocolate? Do you love great places to shop and dine?
If so, you will not want to miss Athens Main Street’s popular Chocolate Walk. The Chocolate Walk will take place on February 5, 2022, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The self-guided event will start at...
Calhoun Brews Up Apprenticeship Course For