The weather was wonderfully cooperative for both the Central Illinois St. Andrews' Highland Games (http://www.central-illinois-standrewsociety.com/), and for Clayville's Spring Festival (http://www.clayville.org).
On Saturday I spent the morning at the Highland Games' Heritage Tent. They had an very nice set up, with banks of computers for individuals to research Ancestry.com. Along with this attraction, author, Wendy Wilson (http://wendywilsonbook.com/), was signing her book, A Touch of Irish, and there was a talk by Tara McClellan McAndrew (author of Stories of Springfield) on, "The Irish in Springfield, Il." She is at
Ms. McAndrew's talk was very interesting, and Ms. Wilson's puppy, Zero, was quite the hit with everyone.
The high point for me was when one young lady, and later her older brother, came to listen to tales. The young lady was probably about 13 or 14, and so for the first round I told, "Tam Lin," and later, when she and her brother came back, I told "The Selkie Bride," and "The Elderly Seal." It is always lovely when teenagers, and young adults, take a interesting in storytelling.
Sunday saw me out at Clayville, and after finding a nice, shady, tree to place my chair I settled to tell tales (and occasionally have saltine crackers with homemade butter).
The 114th Cavalry was in fine form with their western skirmishes, and there was a steady crowd. My tree was right by the main route so I was able to tell my stories to people passing by. I often invited them to come, "Share my shade, the breeze, and a tale."
I wish I had had more time to explore as I could hear the drums of the Native dancers, and caught a glimpse of the array of vendors. But by the time I was through I was just warm enough to be ready to pack up and held for some dinner.
I knew it had been a long time since I wrote, but I hadn't realized how long; nor can I blame it all on the scorching summer (though it does explain the last few weeks).
Nor has it been due to a lack of things to do - there have been many an interesting activity. So interesting that I still want to do an overview:
April offered two fascinating events.
The Sangamon County Historical Society
(http://sangamonhistory.org/) offered a bus trip to the C. H. Moore Homestead (http://www.chmoorehomestead.org/) in Clinton, Illinois. The C. H. Moore house is a beautifully restored Victorian home, with exquisite furnishings, and material examples of the life of the time. The curator, Larry Buss, has a wealth of knowledge on the house and grounds, and along with the house's collection there is also the DeWitt County History Society's museum in the basement, three farm museums, a blacksmith shop, and a telephone exhibit.
This fine outing was followed by the Springfield Art Association's "Titantic Tea." (http://www.springfieldart.org/)
They had the Tea Ladies (http://www.thetealadiesinc.com/)back to host a tea party, which offered foods that would have been on the Titanic. The Tea Ladies then offered a brief history of the people on board, and asked that all those attendees of the tea party to read a card (or more) regarding some of the survivors.
With the coming of May came both the Central Illinois Highland Games (http://www.central-illinois-standrewsociety.com/)and the precursor to the heat), and Clayville's Spring Festival (http://www.clayville.org/).
Both were as fun to perform at as always.
The increase in the heat did cut into the performing schedule, with Clayville not having their usual July activities, and the Elijah Iles House (http://www.ileshouse.org/)cancelling their Strawberry Festival, but I have not been idle.
During this time I have decided to launch Tales of Sangamon (http://www.talesofsangamon.com/), which is a website devoted to collecting stories of Sangamon County, and the surrounding area.
I am truly excited about the site, and hope that some will use it so that stories of the area can be documented, since there is so little Illinois lore in print.
I'm not sure much more could have been packed into one weekend, but Springfield and the surrounding area tried. And though there were many other things going on the ones I was involved in were the Springfield Area Highland Games (http://www.central-illinois-celts.org/), and the Clayville Spring Festival (http://clayville.org/home).
With the Games I balance being chair of the Heritage Area and storytelling, but once set up was completed, and Iain Thompson completed his "Introduction to Gaelic," I settled in for some tales.
I put up the "Storyteller is In" sign, and gratefully moved my chair into the tent's shade - for the day (despite ominous weather warnings) was sunny, hot, and windy.
The ebb and flow of visitors offered a fascinating array of individuals.
One couple stayed after a "Introduction to Gaelic" class, and to them I told an Orkney tale about "The Storm Witch." This is a tale of a young woman, named Janet, who was caught in the 17th century witch craze, and was rescued rather dramatically by her lover. It was my first time telling it in public, and I was satisfied it flowed well.
Though I had a moment or two wondering how my audience received it as the lady sat silent.
Finally she said, "My name is Janet." Then she smiled a little, and said, "I wonder where that took place - I got to visit the Orkney Islands once."
After that she told us about what all one should see if visiting.
Along the way I told the Irish tales, "The King Who Was a Gentleman" and "The Wolf's Story."
Of course "Tamlin" was a favorite.
The audience ranged from young to elders, and all in between, and at the end of one tale a gentleman said, "You are the first storyteller I have ever heard, though I have been interested in it for a long time."
So he and his wife told me a little of his days as a pastor, and how they were researching which storytelling festivals to go to. I was able to recommend the going to the Illinois Storytelling website (http://www.storytelling.org/) for their calendar.
It's an interesting feeling to learn that you are the first of your art that an individual has heard, and you hope you represented the art form well.
And when 4 came around my friend, Amanda, and I packed up and headed wearily, though pleased, to our respective homes.
For we both knew we needed rest for Clayville the next day, since we're both involved in both festivals.
The weather was still holding, though the reports remained ominous, and with less to haul we headed out.
I was offered a place in the Broadwell Tavern, which was very pleasant with both doors open to provide a breeze. A fact that was very welcome as I was in my full civil war era gown.
My first audience was a lad about 4 years old, named Otto, and his parents; they stopped to listen to "The Two Foxes."
As folks came to see the Inn they stopped to listen.
As one lady approached she exclaimed, "I knew it was you! I recognized your voice!"
It turns out that she had retired several years ago from Horace Mann, and remembered me from when I performed at the Horace Mann's United Way Talent Show.
She remained for a story.
Others stopped for "Jack and the Gower." (Including another lady from Horace Mann who remembered me from the Talent Show).
And to keep us from being bored the members of the 10th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry (http://www.10thillinoisvolcavalry.com/) changed to cowboy garb, and offered many an entertaining shoot-out. Oft using the Inn as a staging point.
But the thunder rumbling overhead put lie to the sound of their blanks, and soon everyone was squeezing into all available buildings.
If buildings have memories I am sure the Broadwell Inn had a sense of deja vu - for once again the Inn sheltered mothers comforting babes, bored children seeking entertainment or comfort, and equally bored men standing at the doors watching the deluge. How many times did the Inn have such crowd during its stagecoach days?
And from the crowd came little Otto, and who found me watching the rain too.
Who looked up at me and said, "Could you please come and tell us all a story?"
So while the thunder broke overhead and told him, "Michael and Friendly Leprechaun."
I am a Springfield, IL based storyteller with a fascination for how folklore travels, and for history.