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Bil Lepp

Professional storytellers to fill three-day Chillicothe festival with inspirational, ghost stories

In its 12th year, Chilllicothe’s Southern Ohio Storytelling Festival will feature three days of storytelling and even some ghost stories.

The Southern Ohio Storytelling Festival in Chillicothe, Ohio isn’t the typical kind of story time.

Founded by Bill McKell 12 years ago, the three-day festival centers on the art of telling stories and features several professional storytellers. A weekend pass costs $10 for adults and $5 for students.

“It’s really very different. The people we bring in to do it are professionals that make their living telling stories,” McKell, a storyteller, said. “It’s a neat experience. The storytelling festival is exactly that, a weekend of experiencing stories from a number of different top quality performers.”

The festival begins Thursday evening with an introductory “concert,” in which multiple people tell several stories. During the day Friday, local fifth- through seventh-grade students are invited to come in and hear the performers tell their stories.

Late Friday night, there will be a ghost story portion of the event.

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“They are not necessarily family-friendly ghost stories,” McKell said. “They are ghost stories for people who really want to be scared.”

During the day Saturday, the featured performers will each get about an hour to perform, rather than the shorter performances on Friday. McKell said that Saturday is his favorite portion of the event.

“That’s when you really get to know the tellers’ stories and you get the in-depth performance and it’s awesome,” McKell said.

To conclude the festival, all of the featured storytellers will perform on stage together Saturday.

One of the performers, Sheila Arnold, has been telling stories full-time for 12 years but this is her third year performing at the festival.

I’m telling a variety of stories. I like just a good story,” Arnold said. “You’ll hear some folk tales, you’ll hear some personal stories, tall tales, and some inspirational stories.”

McKell said he is excited for Andy Offutt Irwin, a nationally-recognized storyteller, to perform his stories that use humor to convey important themes.

Bil Lepp, one of the featured performers, has been telling stories since 1990 and has performed at the Southern Ohio Storytelling Festival numerous times. He said he enjoys the small setting of the festival.

“Some of the festivals I go to are really big, so this one is small and kind of intimate,” Lepp said. “It gives you the opportunity to really interact with the audience.”

McKell praised Lepp for his humorous stories.

“His stories are just these hilarious tall tales that start out as a story and get more and more elaborate as they go along,” McKell said. “They’re just hilarious and people will literally be rolling with laughter.”


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