20-03-11 ARTS Humming Bull.jpg

Yarn-spinner Gary Mackenzie competes in a recent Humming Bull storytelling event.

Ever had a run-in with a hungry bear at a summer camp? Did a friend of a friend of a friend survive a real-life slasher movie? Something more spectacular, more hilarious, more exciting?

For those who feel they have a story to tell—be it funny, scary, exciting or sad, real or imagined—there is no better venue in the Wood River Valley than the annual Humming Bull storytelling competition, presented by local nonprofit Idaho BaseCamp.

The event organizers describe The Humming Bull as being structured in the vein of “The Moth,” referring to the popular storytelling podcast created by the New York City-based nonprofit organization of the same name.

Holding an event in what is known as the “Moth style” means that participants will have a limited amount of time in which to spin their yarns—six minutes apiece, in this case—and the emphasis is on storytelling, not story reading.

Bards will be expected to get up on stage and, as people used to do before gas and TV, share their tales with enthusiasm, dramatic flair and a strong sense of pacing and timing.

Each contestant will have six minutes to tell their stories. A panel of judges will select the top three stories each night, and then the audience will rank the winners.

The first leg of the competition will occur on Thursday, March 19, at the Sun Valley Brewery in Hailey, from 6-8 p.m. The stories for this evening should all center on the theme “slice of heaven.”

The individual interpretation of that theme and the themes for the ensuing competitions should vary wildly. Storytellers are encouraged to get creative with their understandings of these themes, but to keep on point as they craft and select their stories.

On Thursday, April 2, the second installment of The Humming Bull series will be held at The Boho Lounge in Ketchum, again from 6-8 p.m. The theme for the Boho night is “fire away.”

Three finalists will be selected from each event, with judges considering stories for their craft, delivery, creativity and the speaker’s connection to the audience.

Those six contestants will then reconvene for the finals at Whiskey Jacques’ on Thursday, April 16, from 6-8 p.m. Here, they will compete for narrative glory on the appropriately climactic theme “now or never.”

Though ostensibly a friend competition, there are some seriously enticing prizes in contention. Each winner from the preliminary rounds will receive prizes, but the grand prizes are certainly deserving of their adjective. Up for grabs are a 2020-21 Sun Valley ski pass, a staycation at the Limelight Hotel in Ketchum and 50,000 airline miles.

Of course, storytelling is a spectator sport, and all bards need audiences. Door prizes will be given to audience members at each event. Tickets to attend as a listener or to compete as a storyteller will be $10 apiece, with all proceeds going to benefit Idaho BaseCamp’s year-round programming for children.

For those who think they have nothing exciting or engaging to contribute, it is important to keep in mind that anything can be made interesting if told the right way. It is all in the delivery. Remember, “Seinfeld” ran nine seasons.

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