The Great American Story

Tell me a story, a child says and waits for the magic web of words to spin.

That reminds me of a story, a man says, arms pressing the bar, hands cradling a beer.

I could tell you stories, a woman says from her wheelchair in clipped German accent.

Whatever the occasion, for the moment we’re captivated, ready to be transported on the magic carpet of words. To be enlightened, encouraged, entertained.

That’s what the Great American Story is about — keeping the art of oral storytelling alive.

Once a year, the Great American Story committee in Park Rapids, MN, issues a call for submissions around a specific theme — heroism, holidays, family life, for example. Four finalist contestants convene at Armory Square and face off to an audience of story lovers and judges. Their votes decide who wins the prize money and who wears the crown of Great American Story Teller.

Recognizing the wealth of story-telling talent in this state, this region, this country and the popularity that local story-tellers (Garrison Keillor, Lorna Landvik, Kevin Kling) have enjoyed, we borrowed the format from the Great American Think-off — a call for submissions, winnowing the contestants to four finalists, each finalist telling his/her story in front of a live audience. The audience votes for the top two, who are given prompts and then deliver impromptu stories. The audience again selects the grand prize winner of $1,000 and the crown.

Somewhat plagiaristic, somewhat presumptuous, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the Great American Story is, first and last, entertainment. It rewards creativity, quick wit, and audience connection. Jostle your story-telling instincts. Notify your storytelling family and friends. And join us in Park Rapids on the last weekend of September for the Great American Story.