Before there was YouTube, Facebook and social media, there were story-tellers. Sitting around fires, whether in the wild, caves or at the home hearth, human beings apparently have never been at a loss for words to entertain each other, says storyteller Carolyn Stearns of Storrs.
It's an art form that Stearns, a board member of the Connecticut Storytelling Center, based at Connecticut College, says is a natural with children, regardless of the onslaught of electronic gadgets and games. Children have always learned sounds, phonetics and words from listening to and watching others speak, she points out, long before vocabulary lists and teaching-to-the-test.
"Our brains are wired to learn from oral," says Stearns, who also is a dairy farmer, horse show announcer, sandwich generation daughter, mother and grandmother, 4-H club leader and afterschool program staffer. "Storytelling can span just about any topic from multicultural tales to history or science stories and can be tailor-made to support any curriculum."
The storytellers have teamed up with Fort Hill Farms in Thompson, which days ago was awarded a 2012 Connecticut Pineapple Award for CT Tourism Ambassador, to hold a butterfly release fundraiser for storytelling efforts in the state.
The festivities take place on June 2 (or rain date of June 3 - butterflies won't fly if it is raining), featuring stories and music under the tent from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., when everyone who has preordered their butterflies gets to release them into the air.
"Can you picture the Kodak moment when you open your little container and release your butterfly into the beautiful setting of Fort Hill Farms, its gardens, vistas and, of course, the cows?" says Stearns, who welcomes novice and seasoned storytellers to join her under the tent to entertain listeners with tales. She'll be telling an original yarn about butterflies, an intertwining of Native-American and other lore.
Fort Hills Farms, a bucolic marriage of organic gardening, dairy farming and agro-tourism run by Peter and Kristin Orr, is one of the Farmers Cow brand dairy farms. It's also a breathtaking rural vista for Kristin's Quintessential Gardens, home-grown, hardy and care-free organic perennials and her labyrinths of lavender plants, which are the basis for dried lavender, bouquets and even lavender sauce, which goes well with Farmers Cow ice creams. In 2010, Yankee Magazine named the place one of the Best Places to Go Nowhere in New England.
This event was cooked up by Orr and Stearns well before the farm was honored at the CT Tourism Conference for its tourism draw. It was the only farm nominated for the award.
Funds raised will support activities of the CT Storyteller Center, based at Connecticut College. In addition to the recent annual Connecticut Storytelling Festival and Conference, the center organizes Campus Slammer, an intercollegiate story slam that engages college students in storytelling competition, and a bridge to literacy programs available to schools across the state.
"The storytelling center is a resource center for people who are listeners, as well as for the tellers," says Stearns, who is one of the storytellers at Mystic Seaport's 33rd annual Sea Music Festival on June 9 and 10.
Supporters of the cause don't have to be present for their Monarch ($25) or a Painted Lady ($12 each) to be released, but butterfly orders need to be placed by Friday, May 25, with Fort Hill Farms or online through the CT Storytelling Center.
"Monarchs can only be raised on live plants, no fast food," says Orr, an advocate for more open space and native vegetation. "That's why it is so important for people to raise native flowers and plants for butterflies and beneficial insects."
See connstorycenter.org/butterflyrelease.htm to order butterflies. For details and directions to the farm, see www.forthillfarms.com. Ice cream and toppings will be available for purchase in the farm creamery.
Suzanne Thompson lives in Old Lyme. Catch her weekly radio show, "CT Outdoors," on WLIS 1420/Old Saybrook and WMRD 1150/Middletown or online at www.wliswmrd.net, Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.