The Stone Soup Storytelling Festival is built upon the various versions of the traditional story of Stone Soup. The moral of the story is that by working together, with everyone contributing what they can, a greater good is achieved.
The Woodruff town charter was approved in 1874. The city of Woodruff, in Upstate South Carolina, was originally a farming town that turned to textiles and then in the 1970’s textiles turned to dust. The textile mills vanished. The community began looking for and is still searching for a new identity with the slogan “Time Well Spent.”
Education has always been an important aspect of the community. The first branch library in Spartanburg County, The Timrod Library, a “reading room” was built in Woodruff. A piece of history, the Timrod Library, continues to be one of the venues for the Stone Soup Storytelling Festival.
Our Stone Soup Storytelling Festival was the brainchild of one of the Timrod Library’s librarians, Dixie Page, and Judy Wyatt, an English teacher at our local Junior High School. They are storytellers. Dixie honed the art of storytelling under the tutelage of Augusta Baker. In the early 1980’s, Dixie and Judy had been to Jonesborough, TN for one of the annual storytelling festivals and on the drive home were talking about Woodruff and how the community was in need of an identity. The mills on either side of the town had closed. The mills had been the economic driver for the community. Woodruff’s downtown had dried up.
Dixie and Judy felt that stories and storytelling might be just the recipe to nourish a rebirth and so in 1985, they planned and held the first Storytelling Festival in Woodruff. Dixie and Judy organized a festival board, planned storytelling events, secured venues, contracted tellers, obtained lodging for the tellers at local residences, and procured funding to pay expenses in the spirit of the Stone Soup story with everyone contributing what they could.
In 1988 the Stone Soup Storytelling Festival was approved by the state of South Carolina as a charitable organization and has also been designated to the position of the official storytelling festival of South Carolina by the South Carolina legislature. Stone Soup received its designation as a tax exempt organization (501(c)3) in 1989.
Through the years, festival events have evolved from primarily traditional Appalachian and folktales from well-known storytellers such as Donald Davis, Jackie Torrence, Bobby Norfolk, Doug Elliott, Gamble Rogers and Joseph Sobol from the 1990 festival into a new generation of upstarts and premier performers of today’s stages like Adam Booth, Diane Macklin, Tim Tingle, Leeny Del Seamonds, Donna Washington and Ingrid Nixon, along with local Carolinian talents like Tim Lowry, Linda Goodman and Cora Newcomb.
Popularity of diversity in story genres has blossomed. Events like the “Moth” have elevated the demand of personal stories and brought about a renewed enjoyment in sharing experiences with each other in the “old-fashioned” oral tradition. Our Stone Soup storytellers come from all around the nation. They represent a variety of cultures and storytelling genres.
Almost everyone can connect an experience with a story that another person has shared with them. People and the public have realized the importance and usefulness of storytelling. Storytelling is useful not only in our personal lives but aides in communicating and connecting ideas in business, helps students in the classroom, can help build empathy and camaraderie in a community and stimulate creativity.
In 2015 the Festival Committee, thanks to a suggestion from former board member Linda Goodman, created a new opportunity for up and coming storytellers and tellers that had never told as a featured teller at Stone Soup to take to our Main Stage. This is our New Voices event. This event has invited storytellers that want to share their talent and stories with us from all over the USA to Woodruff. New Voice storytellers also get to be a part of the festivities and enjoy the camaraderie. We treat them like family!
The explosion of the appreciation for storytelling has resulted in the Stone Soup Storytelling Festival Committee re-evaluation of events that are included during the festival. In 2018, Stone Soup found a permanent home at 134 S. Main Street in Woodruff. We have added additional programs throughout the year to include not only storytelling but spoken word, music, art, dance and general.
One of our top priorities is to try to preserve the intimate, small town feeling and atmosphere of traditional storytelling. The storytelling that occurred on the front porch on a Sunday afternoon, during your trip to town on a Saturday morning or under the shade tree at the backyard picnic. A welcome place for everyone to come, share and listen; a place to come and to experience a little small town magic- just listening to the sound of a voice and making new friends; a place for time well spent.