The moral of Federal Way's storytelling festival | Andy Hobbs

Once upon a time, PowellsWood Garden hosted a successful storytelling festival in Federal Way.

Beneath a handful of tents tucked among the landscape, master storytellers mesmerized audiences, who listened to the spoken words in rapt silence.

The buzz from last weekend's festival is that Alton Chung of Vancouver, Wash., blew everybody away with true wartime tales from Okinawa and Hawaii. Also, TV journalist Serena Altschul interviewed guests and presenters for an upcoming episode of "CBS Sunday Morning."

Over in the tent for younger listeners, Norman Brecke strummed a guitar ditty about meatballs and spaghetti, alternating between fun songs and simple tales. Brecke, who teaches elementary school in Renton, held a few dozen little ears in the palm of his hand. His well-told yarn about a dragon resonated with both kids and adults, including the adult writing this column.

I will do my best to summarize Brecke's tale: A man loved dragons so much that he collected all kinds of dragon toys, dragon pictures and dragon movies. Then a real dragon visited the man's house. The dragon wrapped itself around the house. The dragon's tail tapped the back door, while he breathed that fiery, nasty dragon breath through the front door. This scared the bejesus out of the man who loved dragons. The man realized he didn't love actual dragons, but rather, he only loved to look at pictures of dragons.

Of course, to truly soak up the message, it is best to hear the story illustrated with Brecke's colorful inflections and wide-eyed expressions.

The story explores the connection between fantasy and reality. Indeed, a perfect idea is sexier than the real thing, flaws and all.

A fantasy describes a scene conjured by the imagination. A vision, on the other hand, is a fantasy with a purpose.

The vision for hosting the PowellsWood Storytelling Festival stemmed from Monte and Diane Powell's experiences at similar festivals — including the big one in Jonesborough, Tenn. The Powells loved how storytellers whisked the audience away to another world steeped in history and imagination.

They wanted Federal Way to bask in that same world, so the PowellsWood Garden pursued a vision for a local storytelling festival. About 200 people were expected to attend last weekend's event. More than 400 came.

Unlike the dragon man's dreams, the PowellsWood festival fantasy tasted much sweeter in reality.

The festival created an opportunity for Federal Way to sample culture and nature, right here at home. PowellsWood gave people across the region a good reason to visit and play. Most importantly, the festival nourished the community's lifeblood, if only for a weekend — and that vision, dear reader, always leads to a happy ending.


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