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Master storytellers to perform

The fifth annual Frazee Area Arts Association Sharing the Tradition of Storytelling Festival will bring some of the best performers of the storytelling art to our region on Friday, March 28.

This is an opportunity for area residents to learn more about the storytelling art and to hear stories told by nationally and internationally recognized tellers. Four storytellers will perform an adult Friday night concert and will be joined by two more storytelling professionals for a Saturday morning workshop.

"This event is unparalleled in the region," says Patty Nunn, who coordinates the festival. "There isn't another community in the surrounding region that brings together this many accomplished storytellers and musicians for one event. We are so fortunate to have the support of the community and the great facility for the performance," she adds.

Master storyteller Michael Cotter is a nationally-renowned storyteller. He is a third generation farmer from Austin. Several years ago he was visiting in the area, got a bit lost, found Frazee, and now returns every year to lend his special touch to the Storytelling Festival. His stories reflect the pride and humor of his Irish-Catholic roots while keeping alive the traditions of the work and dedication involved in farming and raising dairy cattle.

The late Gene Anderson, founder of the Frazee Area Arts group, described Michael Cotter as the "lynchpin" of the festival. "Michael has a way of telling a story that is so natural," says Sharyl Ogard, treasurer and co-coordinator of the festival. "He never fails to leave the audience laughing or crying - often at the same time."

Cotter has appeared at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN, the Illinois Storytelling Festival, the Pete Seeger's Clear Water Festival in West Point, New York, and gave the keynote address at the Tejas Storytelling Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. Cotter is the founder of the Minnesota Storytelling Festival and has coordinated the event for twenty plus years. He hosts two radio programs featuring storytelling, is an author and has audio recordings of his story collections.

Ann Zemke of Blaine, Minn. is a quilter who believes, "Every quilt tells a story -- fabric remnants pieced together in eye-catching patterns that speak of grandma's apron, baptismal gowns and kitchen curtains.  In their entirety, they are precious heirlooms which teach us about our heritage or share lessons in American history, while they add beauty, creativity and warmth to our lives."

Ann's grandmother came to Minnesota on the Orphan Train. From 1854 to 1929, an estimated 250,000 children rode "orphan trains" from overpopulated areas of the East Coast to rural America to find new homes.  Ann tells her grandmother's heartwarming story using the very special quilt that she made in her grandmother's memory, and she has captivated audiences of all types across the United States with this fascinating story and the remarkable quilt it inspired.

Patricia Nunn of Frazee started storytelling in 1991 as part of her job at the Detroit Lakes Public Library. She is the host of the Perham Show on TV3 interviewing local non-profit and youth groups to help promote their events. She also conducts businesses profiles of Perham, MN area business and does on-location interviews with business owners.

Patty has appeared for several years at the Linda McGuire Storytelling Festival as a guest of the Valley Reading Council. She conducted workshops at the 2002 North Dakota Reading Association and has performed in countless public libraries, schools, and festivals in Minnesota and North Dakota. She has served as the volunteer project director for five years for the "Sharing the Tradition of Storytelling" event for the Frazee Area Arts Association in Frazee, MN. Nunn is a member of the Northlands Storytelling Network, the National Storytelling Network, the International String Figure Association, and the Minnesota Reading Association.

Keith Bear is a Hidatsu storyteller and flute player. Born and educated in North Dakota, Bear lives on the Fort Berthold Reservation. When he's not performing, he perfects his skills in beadwork, quillwork and flute-making. He is also a certified boxing official and volunteers to help boys on the Fort Berthold Reservation learn the discipline of boxing.

His stories and music enchant audiences of all ages. Reflecting the dignity and spiritual wisdom of his ancestors, he inspires reverence for the earth, gratitude for the diversity of human experience and appreciation of the beauty of traditional Native songs and stories, many of which have been handed down for more than 300 years.

Keith has appeared as a solo presenter and storyteller with the Smithsonian Folklife festival, the Kennedy Center, Lewis & Clark Bicentennial signature events throughout the US, International Storytellers Festival in Wales, UK; for the North Dakota Arts Council, and cultural programs throughout Europe. He's also been seen on MTV's Road Rules, Babe Winkelman's Hunting Secrets, Ducks Unlimited's Prairie Potholes, ND Tourism commercials and a short film piece for Prairie Public Television. Several foreign documentaries have also aired interviews with Bear.

The four concert performers will be joined by storyteller Bev Jackson of Albert Lea who is the coordinator of the Minnesota Storytelling Festival, author, artist. Each of the five will spend and hour in the Frazee-Vergas Elementary School classrooms sharing stories.

On Saturday morning, the storytellers and Merrie Sue Holtan, Professor of Communications at Minnesota State University, Moorhead will present a Storytelling Workshop. Holtan will lead people interested in developing their own stories in the workshop at the Frazee-Vergas High School commons. The five professional storytellers will be live resources at the event. Breakfast and registration is at 8:30 followed by the workshop from 9 to 11 a.m. Participants can receive two continuing education credits for the workshop from Frazee-Vergas Community Education. Pre-register is required by phoning 218-334-2525. The cost is $10 at the door.

This activity is funded in part by a grant from the Lake Region Arts Council through a Minnesota State Legislative appropriation.