The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival has a new home, but for many, it’s a familiar one.
Now in its 28th year, the three-day festival settled into its new home this weekend in Ashton Gardens at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi. For many familiar with the festival, the new setting is fitting.
“It started in the Karen Ashton’s backyard. In talking to her, she said she’s thrilled to bring the festival here,” said Josh Berndt, Thanksgiving Point director of communications.
The festival, which ends Saturday night, also broke with tradition this year, and wasn’t held over Labor Day weekend. Eliot Wilcox, executive director of the Timpanogos Storytelling Institute, said this change was made because the festival is run by only two Storytelling Institute employees and hundreds of volunteers.
“The change was to allow our volunteers greater flexibility, so they can enjoy the holiday weekend with their families,” Wilcox said, adding that it also gives the same benefit to attendees.
While it’s still too soon to tell the exact effect the move in date and place had on ticket sales, Wilcox said pre-sales before the festival started Thursday were “on track with previous years.” Wilcox explained the new location allows for larger crowd sizes, and will allow the festival to continue its growth path.
Moving the festival from Provo Canyon has given festival organizers and attendees some significant benefits, Wilcox added. Festival organizers have been able to serve almost 3,000 more students from multiple counties through their school programs, because they can shuttle school groups to different facilities at Thanksgiving Point — minimizing the crowding and congestion at the public tents.
One other benefit may be a bit less enchanting than the many tales lofting their way through the air — but just as important: restroom facilities.
“Here they already handle crowds of this size regularly, so people have better access to flush toilets,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox also said parking for the more than 2,500 attendees that come to hear stories each day has been much easier this year. At other locations in years past, visitors had to park quite a ways away and be shuttled into the festival on school busses.
“That is a major plus,” said Chelise Fox, as she and her sister, Brianna Davis, waited in the Monet Bridge Tent to hear from storyteller and crowd favorite Carmen Deedy.
Fox has been an avid Storytelling Festival fan since 2012. She even flew out from Washington, D.C. this year just for this event. For her, attending the festival is a “refreshing, centering, and healing” experience.
“It’s better than Christmas,” she said with a laugh Friday afternoon. “Storytelling is a beautiful community experience, as an entire tent of people visualize the same story. Afterwards, that shared experience, it makes people more solicitous, more kind. It’s a community centering thing, I guess, and reminds you how we’re all connected.”
Fox said she misses the ambiance and “mythical” feel of the Provo Canyon location — the opportunity to get away from the city. But she thinks Ashton Gardens might still “work out.”
Davis, who lives in Provo, said this was her first time at the festival, and called the experience “cathartic.” Having never been to any other locations, she said the Thanksgiving Point space fits with the festival.
“I really enjoy the setting. It’s beautiful. I like to walk around and enjoy the scenery when we have breaks. It’s added to the experience,” she said.
Wilcox hopes people feel the same way and take time to enjoy the gorgeousness of the scenery as they enjoy the spinning yarns. And visitors on Friday were doing just that. As they wound their way down the garden paths to the next story tent, many stopped to smell flowers, or take pictures of a uniquely beautiful bloom along the way.