MADISON, NJ – The second Madison Storytellers Festival took place in downtown Madison on Saturday, Sept. 16 at the corner of Main Street and Green Village Road.

The Storytellers Festival helps to foster community through the art of storytelling as an expression of who we are, who we were and who we hope to be, according to event founders Dan Blank of WeGrowMedia and Barb Short, owner of Short Stories Bookshop & Community Hub.

The event began with Mayor Bob Conley, who said storytelling captures our history, and is how we get to know each other. He also shared his own personal story about his mentor Bill Hawkins, former CEO of the Madison Area YMCA, who passed away on Aug. 30, 2017.

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“Bill gave me my first professional YMCA position,” he said. “He demonstrated the skills it took to serve the community. He listened, understood the challenges and worked on a vision to answer those challenges—one of them being what is now the F.M. Kirby Children’s Center. I would not be here today if it wasn’t for Bill Hawkins.”

Many local organizations within the Rose City Community already encourage storytelling, said the event founders, and the support seems to be growing.

“There are so many different ways to tell a story,” said Blank. “You can do it through writing, drawing, photography, theater, dance, or even clay and...Madison has it all," Short said. “We have a unique concentration of excellence in the arts right here in our small town, from the Shakespeare and Writers theaters to the new Step Right Up Studio to Madison Mud." 

“There is something for any artist, from the emerging to the professional. This festival brings all of that together and empowers the artist in all of us to develop new inspiration and skills to continue telling our stories.”

Madison Storytellers Festival included an interactive sound-effect workshop where participants could play the chimes during magical and mysterious parts of a story, crank a drum to simulate the sound of rain and close a real door to bring a dramatic plot transition to life.

A special storyboard displayed near the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts asked visitors to answer in writing on an index card, “What one person helped make you who you are today, and why?”

“The kids loved the storyboard,” said Madison resident Kirsten Wallenstein.

At Jolie gym, kids were treated to storytime and a personal visit with Curious George, one of the world’s most beloved—and mischievous—book characters.

The festival included a reading from renowned storyteller and New York Times bestselling author Kambri Crews, who wrote the Random House memoir “Burn Down the Ground.”

Several musical acts were also part of the celebration, including Jeff Webb, Rosewood Band, Dave Murphy, Max Orsini and Madison band Hatchet Jack.

“It is always nice to have an outdoor event listening to music while connection with neighbors and friends in town,” Wallenstein said.

Madison Downtown Development Commission funded and piloted the Storytellers Festival in 2016 and it was sponsored this year by Investors Bank. In addition to Short and Blank, other committee members include Dan Cafaro, founder of Atticus Review and Atticus Books, Deb Starker of the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts, Mel Tomaszewski of Madison Mud Clay Studio and Tivoli Creative Design Studio, John Pietrowski and Walter Rodriguez of Writers Theatre of New Jersey, Bonnie Monte of The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Rachel Barry, publishing executive and Lisa Ellis, program director of the Madison Downtown Development Commission.

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