February 24, 2014

Popular Hatteras Storytelling Festival returns May 2-4


In May, renowned writers, storytellers, and musicians from all across the state will gather in Hatteras village to delight crowds with tales of life, legacy, and lore as part of the second annual Hatteras Storytelling Festival.

The three-day event, scheduled for Friday through Sunday, May 2-4, this year, is brimming with performances by both local and regional talent, ample opportunity to indulge in the local cuisine and fresh seafood, and, to top it all off, the boundless beauty of Hatteras Island.

“Location, location, location,” emphasized Belinda Willis, the co-organizer of the event and owner of Lee Robinson’s General Store.  “This, and the fact that the Outer Banks has so many of its own stories, really sets this festival apart from the rest.”

Surrounded by resplendent beaches and immersed within a culture still deeply rooted in the storytelling tradition, the festival’s location provides quite the incentive to attend and, in fact, played a large hand in its conception.

Well before the inaugural event in May 2013, the editors of Our State magazine recognized the region’s potential to support such an event and contacted the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau with their interest in sponsoring a storytelling festival on Hatteras Island. 

Lee Nettles, the executive director of the Visitors Bureau, called upon the leadership and expertise of Hatteras resident and Day at the Docks founder Lynne Foster, hoping to set the project in motion.

Foster formed a committee to help organize the event and, together, they faced the challenge of creating and then producing a unique and authentic storytelling festival - one with a bit of “Hatteras-style”

And the result was a huge hit.

It attracted about 250 festivalgoers and received an outpouring of support from local businesses and members of the community, through both donations and participation.

The first festival pioneered an entirely new tradition in Hatteras village.

Tracy Shisler and Belinda Willis, the festival’s current organizers, were thrilled with its initial success and hope to cultivate and expand the event as it matures.

“The storytelling festival is a way to bring people to the island during the shoulder-season,” explains Shisler.  “We want to boost the economy and, also, introduce people to the beauty of Hatteras Island.”

Last year, the event provided an influx of visitors to the island, which boosted sales and revenue for businesses within the community during the typical lull between Easter weekend and the summer. 

Shisler and Willis recognized the value of this economic stimulus and incorporated a handful of changes this year to increase attendance and the potential for a spike in sales on the island.

In this pursuit, A Taste of the Village – an event highlighting the village’s restaurants and local cuisine -- will be held in conjunction with festival registration at the Community Building.

Additionally, Shisler and Willis felt that they needed to attract visitors beyond the initial range of awareness, beyond the island.  They took advantage of social media by creating a Facebook page for the event and published advertisements through Our State and a range of other news outlets. 

“Our State magazine has such a broad-reaching readership,” elaborates Shisler.  “And one of the goals of the magazine is to help communities sustain themselves -- to publicize all the amazing little towns in North Carolina that would be worthwhile for visitors to come and support the local economy.

They also opted to include more musical acts into the festival.

“A lot of bluegrass, and quite a bit of gospel, is really just storytelling in music form,” said Shisler.  “As you listen to the lyrics, you know you’re getting a story.”

Many of the storytellers will sing, dance, and play instruments throughout their performances, too.

And, aside from a few new events focusing specifically on Hatteras Island, the storytellers and musicians are given complete artistic license over the theme and structure of their performances at the festival.

They are not given a specific topic or theme, but, the fact that all of the artists are from North Carolina will likely act as a common thread linking the various performances. Though, each will undoubtedly bring a unique perspective, area of interest, and style to the festival.

There are some new faces amongst the festival’s headliners this year.

Kevin Duffus is an award-winning filmmaker, author, and researcher based in Raleigh, N.C.  His extensive research on the Outer Banks has eradicated historical inaccuracies regarding Blackbeard and solved the mystery of the 1854 Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Fresnel lens.

Rodney Kemp is a local historian and historical preservation advocate from Morehead City, N.C.  Kemp is renowned as a “fish house liar” for his abundant supply of tall tales, but in 2003, he was named the North Carolina Historian of the Year for his work with Carteret County Museum of History and Art.

James Charlet is another local historian and author from Hatteras Island.  He taught North Carolina history for 24 years and worked in historic interpretation at several of the Outer Banks’ historic sites, including the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  Currently, Charlet serves as the historic site manager of the Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site & Museum.   

The event will also feature performances by storytellers Clyde Edgerton, Bland Simpson, Clifford Swain, and Ben Cherry and bluegrass groups Banjo Island and Nu-Blu.

The festivities will begin with a private event on Friday as Blackbeard – or Ben Cherry in disguise – thrills the Cape Hatteras Elementary School students with tales of life aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

At 5 p.m., festival registration will be paired with a sampling of the village’s finest foods at the Community Building.

Later in the evening, Kevin Duffus and Clyde Edgerton are scheduled to perform at the Hatteras Village Civic Center. 

On Saturday, events begin at 10 a.m. with a library presentation for preschool and elementary students and will come to a close at 10:30 p.m. following a Blue Grass Concert.

Sunday’s festivities will focus primarily on Hatteras and will consist of gospel music and an afternoon of local stories.

“Basically, we want Sunday to tell our stories,” explains Willis.  “It’ll be strictly local, Hatteras Island storytelling.”

Shisler and Willis hope that their alterations will have a positive effect on the festival so that it may continue to gain recognition and bring more shoulder-season traffic to the community.
Tickets are $75 for the entire weekend, or $35 and $40 per day for Friday and Saturday, respectively.  Tickets are also available to attend only the Blue Grass concert or events on Sunday.  They may be purchased via mail – by clicking the registration form link on the website -- or by calling Jan Willis at 252-986-2109.

Links to ticket sales and accommodation packages—as well as more information on the schedule of events and the performers—are available on the event’s website, www.hatterasyarns.org.


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