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#TraditionsTuesday: Appalachian Festival

It’s #TraditionsTuesday, and today we highlight the Story Stage of the 52nd Annual Appalachian Festival at Coney Island in Cincinnati. Storyteller Omopé Carer Daboiku spoke about her history with the festival and the importance of storytelling in our contemporary world. 

Omopé has told stories at the festival for 30 years, but her history with the park goes back further. She grew up in Ironton, and her senior class trip was to Coney Island. Omopé thinks she may have been part of one of the first racially integrated groups to visit the park, and she has fond memories of her trip there. Years later in 1976, homesick and working on finals, she learned that the Appalachian Festival was happening at that same park. There, she found something she needed - a connection to her Appalachian roots and a place where storytelling held a place of importance. In the following years, Omopé became a regular performer at the festival. She later served as president of the Appalachian Community Development Association, the festival’s host organization, and led the effort to bring the festival back after its cancellation during the flood of 2011. 

This year’s festival will be the first without longtime Story Stage coordinator Sue Cox, who passed away this year. Omopé remembers Sue as an advocate for storytelling at the festival and shares her passion for live performance. In-person storytelling allowed our ancestors to share values and identity with future generations, Omopé said. Today, she sees the co-opting of the term “storytelling” by the world of marketing as a way to simply cultivate consumers. And while Omopé has done recorded storytelling, she is reluctant to spend too much time in the virtual world. “It takes away the electricity between performer and audience,” she said, which can only be found in live performance. In those moments the storyteller’s purpose can be fully realized, she said, which is “to hold onto universal truths until they are needed, or we are ready for them, especially in societies that are struggling.” 

EXPERIENCE: You can experience the electricity of live performance at the Appalachian Festival May 13-14.

EXPAND: Learn more about Omopé Carter Daboiku on the International Storytelling Center website. 

EXPLORE: Check out these four stories from Omopé’s series for the Dayton Metro Library. 

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