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Twisting Tales: 32nd annual Texas Storytelling Festival comes to an end

The 32nd annual Texas Storytelling Festival met Thursday through Sunday in Denton, giving its featured speakers -- and those entirely new to the craft -- a chance to share their tales and perspectives on a wealth of subjects.

"This place is like Brigadoon," featured storyteller and experienced orator Delores Hydock said. "It appears only for a moment, but is magical all the same."

Organized by the Tejas Storytelling Association, based in Denton, the festival has been a community staple since its inception in the mid 1980s.

"It started as a project by Finley Stewart, who was a UNT student at the time," said Jay Stailey, artistic director for the festival for the second year in a row. "[Working with the festival] has been a great experience, Denton is a town that is really receptive to events such as this."

Addressing a crowd gathered on Sunday for the final event of the festival, appropriately dubbed "Sacred Tales Concert," Hydock delved into a tale regarding the beauty that can be found in one's own backyard. She spoke about hearing The Doors' "Light My Fire" and being transported to her youth, where after completing an academic year at George Washington University amidst the domestic turmoil of the early 1970s, she and a friend decided to set off for a year of adventures in Europe.

She describes the car ride to Dulles Airport as tense, and her parents surprisingly silent as they trekked from their home in Reading, Pennsylvania, to the airport.

"[Delores], you're going over there to try and find another way to live," her father told her. "I think you are going to find that everything you are looking for is in your own backyard."

She said as the years went on, ultimately, she found him to be correct.

Stailey said he draws upon his experiences as a member of the National Board of Storytellers in picking featured storytellers.

"I learned a lot of lessons in my first year as artistic director that I've applied to the event this year," he said. "[The festival] usually has one person from the area speak, and then a diversity of others from around the country."

Although many of the speakers have received praise and been awarded for their oratory skills, some who choose to spin their yarns at the festival's many events are first-timers. Among them is Paul Normandin, who took home the prize of Golden Talking Microphone during the festivals first ever "Story Slam," a collection of five-minute tales that invites community members to share their diverse set of tales.

Emceed by Shayne Larango, the concert was random in that each speaker was selected from a bag of cards filled out by those wishing to participate, and each person selected by fate was called to the stage for a five-minute session.

Normandin's tale was that of his exposure to baseball by his grandfather when he was in his early teens. After having left his home in Houston for a summer in New England, the pair went to Boston's Fenway Park several times over that summer, and Normandin said he returned with a fascination for the sport that still persists today.

"I'm a Red Sox fan to this day," he said after winning the segment. "It's too bad that my grandfather never got to see them win a [World Series], but I think he's looking down on us today."

It was Normandin's first time at the Texas Storytelling Festival, but when asked if he would return for the next year, he had only one word to say: "Absolutely."