Azalea Storytelling Festival History

Azalea Storytelling Festival Committee 2021-2022

attending Michael Reno Harrell event at the Cochran Gallery

The Azalea Storytelling Festival history now goes back 25 years! And what an exciting history it is as it has evolved from a once-a-year festival on the first weekend of March to a plethora of varied events throughout the year.
The festival began as a dream concept of three local LaGrange women…Pat Gay, Public Relations/Children’s Librarian and storyteller at LaGrange Memorial Library; Evelyn Jordan, Chairman of the LaGrange College Education Department; and Joyce Morgan-Young, Assistant Superintendent with the Troup County School System.  Assisted by storyteller Donald Davis, their dream became a reality in March of 1997.  The first annual Azalea Storytelling Festival presented nationally known tellers Donald Davis, Ed Stivender, and Kathryn Tucker Windham. Throughout the years Davis has continued to serve as the festival’s mentor offering guidance, support and splendid performances throughout the community.  Yes, storytellers are not afraid to help others create festivals to share this wonderful verbal art medium.

History Now:  The Azalea Storytelling Festival has been recognized as one of the oldest such festivals in the state of Georgia. It has been identified by the Southeastern Tourism Society as a premier event in our area. The festival received the 1999 Leadership Award by the National Storytelling Festival Association as well as recognitions by the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Held the first weekend in March of every year the Azalea Storytelling Festival generally draws over 2000 visitors. Thanks to performances by acclaimed tellers as well as the generosity of our sponsors, and the diligent work of the festival committee and community, Azalea has become a major tourism event for our area.

History Now +:  Storytellers want to encourage others to join the community of storytellers and listeners. Our Azalea Storytelling Committee is still very centered on offering a great festival the first weekend in March each year but has now expanded its focus to the creation of other events held locally all year. “A Taste of Storytelling” is a partner project with the Friends of the Library group at Lagrange Memorial Library each February. “Stories With Friends” is a casual gathering for anyone wanting to practice a story in development or hear stories and cheer others on. Celebrating its tenth anniversary this fall is a joint event with Hills & Dales Estate - “Stories in the Garden”. This free storytelling performance, featuring well- known regional tellers, is held in the pecan grove of the Hills & Dales Estate gardens on a Sunday afternoon in October.  Also hosted at Hills & Dales Estate by the Azalea Committee each July since 2016, is a week long Donald Davis Storytelling Workshop.

We are excited about our history, our innovations allowing the festival and related storytelling events to continue in these extraordinary times and our future.  We hope you are inspired as well. This brief account cannot end without a big thank you to the Lafayette Society for Performing Arts (LSPA), the sponsoring organization for performing art groups in LaGrange, Georgia including the Azalea Storytelling Festival. LaGrange is blessed to have strong support for our performing and visual arts community.


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