I Want To Have a Storytelling Event Within a Park System – Now What?

Producer: Bev Twillmann (, www.interpretivevoices.com)

  • Finding the Correct Site
  • Convincing the Park (Whether National, State or Local)
  • WHO to contact

Examine your desire closely as to why you want to begin an event.  Try and connect with a reason for the Park (you are thinking about as a site) to have this event.

Example: Haunting in the Hills Storytelling Festival was begun as a way to reach out to the community and try to mend some negative feelings the local people had incurred due to this Park taking over some of their lands.

Look closely at the site you are thinking about and ask yourself some very important questions about it.  For example:

  • Is this a realistically safe site for an audience?  (On the edge of a cliff may offer ambiance, but realistically it is not a good spot).
  • Is there ample parking space available for many vehicles?  What about the handicapped?
  • Will you have to shuttle your audience, and if so, where from and who would provide that shuttle?
  • Are there bathrooms close-by?
  • Is there electricity at the intended stage site?  (Don’t plan on a generator; they make way too much noise).
  • Are the roads leading into this site easy to find and safe to drive?
  • If a nighttime event is being thought about, are there enough lights for audience safety?  Lights for return to their vehicles?
  • Are there any wild animals close-by the site that should to be considered?  (For example, alligators, bears, skunk, etc.)?
  • Is your stage site without distraction behind it (such as a road, bathrooms, visitor center, picnic tables, etc.)?
  • If you are planning on food availability for your audience, is that close-by or can this site bring in concessionaires?
  • Is there easily accessible lodging available for your tellers as well as your audience?

Many more questions will come to mind as you actually start planning an event.

Think through your plan thoroughly.  Prior to approaching a contact person in the Park you have decided upon, have some of the questions answered before they can be asked by your Park contact.

Examples of questions to ask yourself:

  • “What’s in it” for the site I have chosen?  How will they benefit?
  • When is the best time to have this new event and why?  (Try and avoid other popular local event dates).
  • How much planning and organizing are you going to do and what do you expect the Park personnel to do?  Be specific.
  • Who will supply the budget and what is a solid guesstimate of what that budget should be?
  • Who will secure the monies if fundraising is necessary?  What kind of restrictions/tax rules have to be followed for this Park?
  • If this is an outdoor event, what will happen with your audience/tellers if it rains?
  • How many people do you hope to attract the first year?  Be realistic.
  • Will you be doing Community Outreach as part of your event?  (Great way to guarantee audience numbers and promote your main event).
  • How many additional Park personnel do you anticipate needing for this venue?  Are they available?
  • What type of sound system will you need, and who will secure it?
  • Will you need a stage?  (If one is not available, can you improvise by using something else, like a wagon/natural amphitheater?)
  • Are there enough bathrooms for large audience use and if not, is there a place for porta-potties?

These are only some of the questions you need to think through and have some sort of response ready for the contact person at your intended festival park site.

Research your intended Park site and find some of the stories within that Park.  Share them with the Park contact person as a way to convince them that storytelling is a natural and significant way to draw interest and support for this site.

WHO do I contact to share all these ideas with ???

National Parks, depending on their size, they all have a Chief of Interpretation who oversees interpretive programming (Depending on the size of the Park, this position is sometimes a shared position; another Park might be overseen by the same person).  This would be the first stop to connect within the National Park System.  Obviously, they would then have to present your idea to the superintendent and/or assistant superintendent.  It would certainly help your idea succeed if there were some written proposal you walked in with for them to keep and copy for others.  This does not mean you cannot talk first to any Park Ranger that has shown interest in the storytelling community, and let them lead you to the right people within their Park.

State Park systems are overseen by management in the state capitol.  But within a state, there are regions and each region has an interpretive program coordinator that would be a good contact.  Contact that person within the same region of the State Park you are thinking about for your event.  Or, if you have not yet chosen a specific site, but just want to toss the idea out to the state people (even regional ones), let them decide which Park would be best and then definitely check it out before you commit yourself.

Local Parks can be city, county or regional and are often overseen by your Parks & Recreation Department within the county of the specific Park.  There is usually a Park Superintendent or a Community Relations Coordinator that would be a good one to contact.  Again, you can let them choose a specific Park, or go in with one you have already scouted and share your ideas and general plans.  Also, look in the front of your local phone book and find the local parks in your area.

Private Nature Centers or Preserves; Environmental Training Centers are in many areas of the country, and often have a natural setting for a storytelling event.  Either through the Internet or the local phone book, find the contact person’s name by calling and asking for the person in charge and request an audience with them.  Often this person would be the director of the facility or the program coordinator.   

The most important thing to remember in trying to sell your idea for an event within a Park system is to share your enthusiasm for storytelling.    If you are sincerely excited about the possibility of a new story event in your area, you can ignite others with your dreams!

Author’s Bio:

Being raised by parents who placed a high value on being creative, sharing of stories, and constantly learning, it is not surprising that Bev Twillmann has chosen to weave storytelling and the story technique into her career with the interpretive process. While traveling the nation in her youth and visiting numerous National Parks, historic sites and museums, she began to realize her father’s tales about these sites were much more interesting than the lecturing programs she had heard at the locations they’d stopped at during the day. He helped make her actually experience with all her senses the history, the people, and the artifacts that they’d seen. He shared the stories behind the facts, and in doing so, motivated Bev who was lucky enough to share his time.

As an educator both in the classroom and in the interpretive field, Bev too has taken this natural process of communication and brought forth factual information to a listening audience with great success. All the workshops she presents are based on the story behind the facts; the techniques of a story being the key to maintaining interest and motivation for persons of all ages.

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