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Who Will Be the Great American Storyteller?


Park Rapids Lakes Area Arts Council (PRLAAC) issued a call to Minnesota storytellers in April to submit a 10-minute recorded story for competition. Storytellers responded, judges selected the top four, and those finalists will travel to Park Rapids to determine who wears the Great American Storyteller crown. And who walks away with $1,000.

The live performance of finalists is scheduled at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24 at Armory Square, Park Rapids.

"We solicited contestants from around the state," says PRLAAC Chair Paul Dove. "We also selected judges from around the state. As it turns out, three of four finalists are local or have local connections. That speaks to the quality of storytelling in our corner of the world."

The finalists are Anne Dunn of Deer River, Leigh Harper of Ponsford, Steve Maanum of Park Rapids and Amy Salloway of Minneapolis. The four will tell their winning stories, and the audience will vote for the top two. Those two will be given a prompt and tell an impromptu 10-minute story. The audience votes again, and the winner gets the crown. And the prize money.

"We borrowed the format unabashedly from the New York Mills Great American Think-off," says project director Jerry Mevissen. "We hope to make the Great American Story a signature event for Armory Square and Park Rapids, the way the Think-off is for Mills."

Bruce Bolton, founder, owner and artistic/managing director of Long Lake Theater, will emcee the event. Guest storyteller, Dr. Carson Gardner, will share the Chi-Dewe`igan, Big Drum, story, rarely if ever told to an off-the-rez audience in English and when it's not part of the drum ceremony itself.

"We scheduled the inaugural Great American Story for the weekend of Park Rapids Art Leap," says Park Rapids Chamber Director Nicole Lalum. "After a day of enjoying 14 studios, an Art Center, a winery and the sculpture tour, we wanted an event where locals and visitors could sit, relax and listen to a good yarn, told by amateur and professional storytellers."

In addition to the first prize of $1000, first runner-up receives $500 and the other two receive $250. "We acknowledge and thank local and regional businesses and organizations who donated to the Great American Story," says LuAnn Hurd-Lof. "Their support and a grant from Region 2 Arts Council made this event possible. We hope this event supports our determination to make Park Rapids an interesting place to live and an entertainment and cultural destination."

Advance tickets at $10 per person are available at Beagle and Wolf Books & Bindery, Smoky Hills Art and the Chamber Visitor Center or online via credit card at

For more information on the Great American Story, go to the website

This activity sponsored by the Park Rapids Lakes Area Arts Council and is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Region 2 Arts Council funded by an appropriation from the Minnesota State Legislature with money from the State's general fund.


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