Weber State University’s 18th annual Storytelling Festival will take place Feb. 24-26. Each year the award-winning festival invites the public to enjoy the performances of national, local and student storytellers. For me, magic is perpetuated each year in the WSU Storytelling Festival, said Ann Ellis, festival director and teacher education associate professor. I arrive with a sense of hushed expectancy to be whisked away into other worlds. During the three-day festival, nationally recognized storytellers Olga Loya, Ed Stivender, Len Cabral and husband and wife pair Eth-Noh-Tec will join 35 Utah storytellers and approximately 70 local student performers to entertain audiences Ó young and old. The festival will be held at various locations including Weber State University, Ogden Eccles Conference Center and Peery’s Egyptian Theater, the Treehouse Museum, Davis Conference Center in Layton, and select local schools and assisted-living centers in Davis, Morgan and Weber counties. The morning story events in the Ogden Eccles and Davis conference centers serve more than 10,000 people each year and youth storytellers from Davis, Morgan, Ogden and Weber school districts. Ellis noted that participation in the event and in storytelling activities has greatly enhanced language instruction in local schools. In school, the focus is usually on reading, although listening, speaking and writing also comprise language arts, Ellis said. Speaking is the skill that isn’t emphasized with children. However, we’ve found through some research done here at Weber State that children who learn to tell stories better comprehend what they’re reading. Ellis said she’s pleased with the festival’s reputation as the best in the country for working with youth storytellers. That’s been our intent from the very beginning, to give children the opportunity to think, act and feel like real performers on stage with real audiences, Ellis said. This year’s program includes bilingual storytelling for English Language Learners. Olga Loya uses a mix of Spanish and English, and you never know you’ve heard them both Ò she weaves between them so seamlessly, Ellis said. Listeners in both languages are absolutely clear on what they’ve heard. It’s fun in this community where we have so many Spanish-speaking children because they’ll have the opportunity to laugh first! The festival’s popular Brown Bag Story Slam, an open mic event with prizes, will be held Feb. 25 from 12:30-1:30 p.m. in the Shepherd Union Fireplace Lounge. A story symposium will follow at 2 p.m. in the Stewart Library Hetzel-Hoellein Room where scholars will discuss Jack Tales, Ph.D.: The Storyteller’s Dilemma. This topic recognizes a ubiquitous story form that celebrates a male hero who meets a wide variety of challenges, Ellis said. The dilemma is that there are fewer tales that celebrate the female hero who cleverly solves problems as well. Eth-Noh-Tec will perform Curse of the Tale, Gift of the Story in the Kimball Visual Arts Building Lindquist Auditorium Feb. 25 at 1:30 p.m. Eth-Noh-Tec’s stories focus on Japanese culture and folk tales, so we’re inviting our Japanese club, the Center for Diversity and Unity, international students and Japanese foreign language students, Ellis said. We’re also inviting dance and drama students because the pair tells highly choreographed stories in beautiful costumes. Eth-Noh-Tec performed here years ago, and they’re very excited to return. Evening events for listeners of all ages will be held on Feb. 24 and 26 and begin at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 26 is designated as Scout Night with the 6:30 p.m. performance. Boy and Girl Scouts from throughout the area will attend in uniform. Thanks to the contributions of numerous donors, events are free to the public with the exception of the fundraising banquet the evening of Feb. 25. For reservation requests and banquet information, contact Carol VandenAkker at 801-626-7515. Visit weber.edu/storytelling for more information about the Storytelling Festival, including biographies.