Arts and Entertainment

PowellsWood Storytelling Festival coming to Federal Way

Some of the world’s top storytellers will converge in Federal Way at the first PowellsWood Storytelling Festival.

Listen to masters perform folk tales based on real people, historical events and personal experiences. These storytellers don’t read from a book. They mesmerize audiences with engaging and emotional tales told in their own words.

The event runs July 13-14 at the PowellsWood private garden at 430 S. Dash Point Road in Federal Way. Festival organizer Margaret Read MacDonald, Ph.D., travels the world telling stories. This retired King County children’s librarian wants people to “discover the joy of storytelling — the pleasure of just sinking into a tale and being drawn along by a caring teller.”

“It’s a glimpse into other cultures and a glimpse into the hearts of these storytellers,” she said.

Presenters include Alton Chung, who will share oral histories of Japanese-Americans from World War II. Debra Harris-Branham, a librarian at Campbell Hill Elementary in Renton, will tell African-American folk tales with audience participation. Norm Brecke, who teaches at Kennydale Elementary School in Renton, combines music and story to engage listeners of all ages. Joe Hayes from Santa Fe, N.M., shares Southwest tales in a slow drawl, sometimes in Spanish and English.

Stories can last a few minutes to a half-hour, transporting audiences to a world created by the teller. In his stories, Alton Chung brings emotions to the surface, colored by his own life experiences. He likens the storyteller's role as a train conductor, leading the listeners on a ride.

For one story, Chung adopts the persona of a Japanese soldier who tries to save the lives of hundreds of girls forced to live with his fellow soldiers. The girls' diaries shape the scope of Chung's stories as he explores the horrors of war.

"It's absolutely horrific what these girls went through," said Chung, a native Hawaiian who now lives in Vancouver, Wash.

Chung researches the dark corners of his heritage, hoping to dig up stories that need to be told — stories that will help enrich the culture from which they came.

"A lot of these stories are so tightly held," he said. "For me, it's like learning history."

Festival info and parking

• Workshops and day camp programs run all day Friday, July 13. Registration for this portion is required, as prices vary for workshops and space is limited.To register, email

• Listeners of all ages are invited to hear stories from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 14. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children and $20 for a family. To learn more, visit or call (253) 529‑1620.

• Festival parking is available at Sacajawea Middle School, 1101 S. Dash Point Road. Shuttles will take visitors to the PowellsWood Garden. Parking at the garden is reserved for staff, vendors and presenters.

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