MOUNT VERNON — The Ohio Order for the Preservation of Storytelling, OOPS for short, returns to Mount Vernon this week for its annual spring conference. According to organization vice president and conference organizer Bizzie Vunderink, the event will draw in performers from all across the country for a series of meetings and workshops that will culminate in a storytelling concert Saturday night.
The conference has been held in Mount Vernon for many years, and attracts a mixture of veteran storytellers as well as beginners and just fans.
“It promotes the tradition of storytelling, which encourages imagination, concentration and interest in reading,” Vunderink said.
To especially encourage these traits in the young, the conference will be sending storytellers, as it does every year, to local schools. This year, eight storytellers will spread out to perform at Columbia, Pleasant Street and Twin Oak elementaries. More schools would have been incorporated, Vunderink said, except that state testing is going on, preventing some schools from having the storytellers.
Conference attendees will meet for dinner and a reception at the Holiday Inn Express on Upper Gilchrist Road, Friday at 5 p.m. Workshops will take place all day Saturday at the First Congregational United Church of Christ.
Vunderink said that although she has been an on-and-off member of OOPS for many years, this year is the first time she had enough space in her calendar, thanks to retirement, to serve as vice president and conference organizer. She said the conference is popular because not only do the storytellers enjoy each other’s company, they also trade stories and keep up on the latest trends and activities.
Although storytelling contains a range of styles, Vunderink’s own favorite is telling stories to children.
“They’re more responsive,” she said, pointing out that adults in general — and men in particular — try to hide their facial reactions, which is one of the things storytellers feed off and adjust to. Children hold nothing back.
“My favorite part is the — ” Vunderink broke off and made a surprised gasping sound. “When you see their eyes, get their feedback at a moment like that, you really know you’ve got them.”
The storytelling concert, open to the public with tickets available at the door, will start Saturday evening at 6:45 at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 200 N. Main St. The concert proper will start at 7:30 p.m., with Ohio storytellers Julissa Reyes and the storytelling couple Greg and Natalie Wittmann.
Featured storyteller will be nationally famous storyteller Dovie Thomason, who will tell stories handed down from her ancestors in the Native American Lakota, Kiowa and Apache tribes.