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West Jordan Journal

All ages, communities, languages welcome at Story Crossroads Storytelling Summit & Festival

May 06, 2024 01:22PM ● By Jet Burnham

Professional storyteller Norm Brecke performs at Little Critters Preschool as part of the 2023 Story Crossroads Storytelling Summit & Festival’s outreach events. (Photo courtesy Rachel Hedman)

A variety of languages and cultures will be celebrated at the 9th Annual Story Crossroads Storytelling Summit & Festival May 13-16.

Story Crossroads Founder and Executive Director Rachel Hedman, who knows hundreds of stories from every part of the world, has always had the goal of a multicultural, multilingual and multiage experience at the Summit & Festival, but she said it takes time to earn a community’s trust.

“Sometimes communities can be insular, and not because they want to have these barriers with each other, but just because of the comfort level— ‘It’s always been this way and so why are we suddenly opening up and doing it this way?’ she said.

Fourteen different languages were represented at the first Story Crossroads Summit & Festival nine years ago. American Sign Language interpreters have always been provided and Spanish interpreters have been provided consistently for the last few years.

Deaf storytellers have also been featured, such as this year’s award-winning Deaf professional storyteller Peter Cook. For the first time, Deaf students have been invited to perform with the youth tellers this year.

“This is the year where it feels like different communities are finally realizing that we are here and we have tried to showcase different languages, to spotlight and to celebrate different languages,” Hedman said.

One of the regular features at the Summit & Festival is a Language of Story series. Past years have explored storytelling in ASL, Portuguese, German, Hungarian and Tongan. This year’s language of focus presentation is Spanish, and for the first time, will be a trilingual experience. The presenter, Dr. Tomás Hidalgo Nava, will speak in Spanish and then in English, which will then be translated into ASL.

The annual Summit also features a State of the Art report, now in its third year, to allow communities the opportunity to share the past, present and future storytelling of their culture. This year’s presenters are representatives from Peruvian, Greek and Japanese-American communities.

The Story Crossroads Summit & Festival events are hybrid, with options for both in-person and virtual attendance. A variety of ticket types for individuals, families, youth groups and schools are available at

“We always want to try to get rid of the economic barriers, or language barriers, or any kind of barriers, because people need the experience of storytelling,” Hedman said.

The Summit & Festival includes both art performances and education, with several workshops directed at teachers. School districts with storytelling programs send their top student tellers to perform.

“We have professionals that we invite every year, but really, it wouldn’t be a Summit & Festival without the youth tellers and our amateur tellers,” Hedman said.

Storytelling artists will also perform at outreach locations such as preschools and community centers and by virtual links to youth detention centers and Primary Children’s Hospital.

Hedman always reaches out to schools about field trips to the festival. Some Murray District schools can walk to the performances held at Murray Park. Teachers from Jordan, Canyons, Granite and Alpine Districts more often register for a virtual field trip. As with all hybrid tickets, they can view all the performances and events on an unlisted YouTube channel at any time through June 15.

The academic opportunities during the Summit & Festival this year cover storytelling skills and exercises for teachers such as using literary works, poetry and metaphors, and trauma in storytelling.

“We enjoy being able to present storytelling in how people typically think of it, but we like to always have an academic side to it too,” Hedman said. “I feel storytelling accomplishes and meets all curriculum needs.”

Hedman, who has taught teachers storytelling skills for over 17 years, believes it can be used for any subject and for any situation, such as transitions, engagement or to prepare students for testing.

“We do encourage teachers to tell stories about themselves, even if they’re short little personal stories or moments, which can grab attention of the students or it can reduce the stress of students before they take a test,” Hedman said. λ