The Tampa-Hillsborough County Storytelling Festival is a wonderful example of how our community can enjoy the benefits of cooperation among city government, county government, and the private sector.
Under the auspices of its fiscal sponsor, Friends of the Library Inc., the festival has received national recognition as the largest and oldest storytelling festival in which children are the predominately featured storytellers.
In 1999, the Festival received the National Storytelling Network's Service Award. This prestigious award is presented each year to individuals or organizations that have made a significant contribution to the larger community in which they live, through the use of storytelling. One award is presented to an organization or individual in each of 6 regions across the country. Nancy Kavanaugh, Chair of the Board of Directors for the National Storytelling Network, spoke highly of the Festival in her presenting remarks. "It is a great honor to recognize a community endeavor that has its roots in the 1940s. Everyone in the Tampa-Hillsborough County community should stand tall when the accomplishments of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Storytelling Festival are mentioned."
The Festival also has won the Outstanding Innovative Program Award for the State of Florida issued by the National Parks and Recreation Department and the Betty Davis Miller Youth Services Award given by the Florida Library Association. The Florida Library Association recognized the Festival in 1998, as an outstanding partnership between a library and community agencies and/or businesses.
In 2003, the Festival received the Award of Excellence for Outstanding Achievement in Water Conservation Education from Southwest Florida Water Management District. The Storytelling Festival Committee had placed three professional storytellers with water story collections into various Hillsborough County Schools. Also in 2003, the past festival Co-Director, Virginia Rivers, received the Florida Storytelling Associationâ€™s Lifetime Achievement Award, given in recognition of her dedication to and organization of youth storytelling.
In 2005, the Tampa-Hillsborough County Storytelling Festival Committee was honored by the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners. Each of the committee members received a beautiful certificate of appreciation at an awards and recognition ceremony. April 8th, 2006 was proclaimed Storytelling Festival Day in Hillsborough County.
To the best of our knowledge, this storytelling youth program is the oldest continuous youth instructional storytelling program in existence. Tampa Recreation began a youth storytelling program on its playgrounds in 1947 with six children. The Festival is the outgrowth of this playground program. Over the years many thousands of children and their families have been introduced to storytelling. Gayle Sierens, Newschannel 8's popular newscaster is one of our alumni. A number of the adult professional tellers we hire began their storytelling careers with this youth storytelling experience.
The stories we tell help define us. The many stories that have been shared in this community over the years have helped to define our community and our values. Stories remind us that no matter the shade of our complexion, religion, ethnicity, or country of origin, we all love and hate, rejoice and grieve, win and lose, and recognize evil and good. Therein lays our common humanity and our chance to foster compassion for all who share our world.
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