Aug 15 2019

Who Will Be the Great American Storyteller?

Last spring, Heartland Arts (formerly Park Rapids Lakes Area Arts Council) issued a call to Minnesota storytellers 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 earns the Great American Storyteller title. And who walks away with $1,000.
The live performance is scheduled at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28 at Calvary Lutheran Church, Park Rapids.
Finalists are Joe Jekot of Chicago, Noel LaBine of Andover, MN, Donna Marie Todd of Black Mountain, NC, and Mike Speller of Crest Hill, IL. 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 story. The audience will vote again, and the winner gets the title. And the prize money.
Master Storyteller Richard Rousseau, St. Paul, will serve as emcee and once again entertain while ballots are being counted. Rousseau has been an active participant in the Midwest performance community for the past 50 years as an actor, director, playwright, and as a storyteller. His interest in storytelling was prompted by a desire to engage his audience without the aid of scripting or rehearsal. For more than 25 years he has been refining his craft in a wide variety of settings in Minnesota and across the country. Rousseau is one of the founders of the Northstar Storytelling League – predecessor to Story Arts of MN – and is currently the Minnesota liaison for the National Storytelling Network. In July, he was presented with the National Storytelling Network’s prestigious Oracle Award at the National Conference in Fremont, CA. The award recognizes Rousseau’s artistic excellence as well as his contributions to the vitality of storytelling in the North Central Region.
Arrive early and enjoy listening to Lori Goulet Reich singing and playing folk, country, blues and traditional music.
“We scheduled the inaugural Great American Story for the weekend of Park Rapids Art Leap,” says Paul Dove of Heartland Arts. “After a day of enjoying driving from studio to studio, 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 $1,000, first runner-up receives $500 and the other finalists receive $250. “We acknowledge and thank local and regional businesses and organizations who donated to the Great American Story,” says Steve Maanum, coordinator. “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.”
Tickets will be available at the door: $10 per person; kids 18 and under free. For more information, go to
This activity is sponsored by the Park Rapids Lakes Area Arts Council with funding provided, in part, by a Region 2 Arts Council Grant through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature and the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund passed by Minnesota voters on Nov. 4, 2008.