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Storytelling festival continues despite location change

By Rebecca Rider
rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Thursday was a day of story and song at schools across Rowan County. Rowan Public Library sent storytellers out to schools for its annual Stories by the Millstream event.

The move is a break from tradition. Normally, Emma Rose, events coordinator with Rowan Public Library, said, the day is held at Sloan Park. But recent flooding following Hurricane Florence left the park soggy and unsuitable for such a large event.

Instead, storytellers went to the students. The library dispatched two storytellers to each Rowan County public elementary school. A few select schools closest to Salisbury drove in to the library’s Salisbury branch to hear featured storyteller Elisha “Mother” Minter.

Stories by the Millstream is a long-standing Rowan County staple that invites first graders from every school to come and hear professional storytellers weave folk and fairy tales.

For many students, Rose explained, it’s their first exposure to traditional folk stories, and to professional storytelling — and storytelling can be an important piece for early literacy. But storytellers and organizers alike say their favorite part of the festival is seeing the smile on students’ faces.

“This is my favorite day,” Rose said. “I look forward to it every year.”

Minter has participated in Stories by the Millstream and other storytelling events around Rowan County for years, but said this is the first time she’s been the featured storyteller.

Minter regularly takes her storytelling on the road. As an N.C. Road Scholar, a program supported by the N.C. Humanities Council, Minter travels around the state. Beyond her storytelling performances, Minter’s also writing tales. She sees her writing projects as contributing to her legacy for her children and the audiences of children she’s shared stories with for many years.

And everywhere she goes, she remembers the children she sees.

“They call me Mother Minter because I have so many children,” she told students from Overton Elementary.

As she begins each performance, Minter tells students that she’s memorizing their faces so that she can pray for them and wish them well later. Then, she launches into a tale. Minter weaves funny, exciting stories with her voice, facial expressions, hand clapping and a djembe drum. And she’s an expert at drawing students in and having them help her tell the story. She even pauses to teach the group songs, or to read from a book or two.

“I love it — I love what I do,” Minter said.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.

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