LAURINBURG — A cozy crowd of about 40 people joined in with a quartet of storytellers on Friday night for sing-alongs, laughs, and tales of ill-fated attempts to get the girl.
The audience got to know storytellers Bill Harley, Bil Lepp, Diane Ferlatte, and Sheila Arnold Jones, who will perform today and Sunday at the Storytelling Festival of Carolina at the John Blue House.
“We are gonna hear tall tales and people are going to spin yarns,” said emcee Lane Hudson. “If any of you feel like you’re laughing to the point of hyperventilating, raise your hand and we’ll bring you a paper bag.”
Recounting his attempt, at the age of nine, to catch the eye of a pretty lifeguard at the swimming pool, Harley correctly predicted that the tale of woe would leave the audience in stitches.
“This is a sad story, but it happened a long time ago, so you’re all just going to laugh at me,” he said. “Tragedy plus distance equals humor.”
Though the nine-year-old Harley did muster the courage to leap off a diving board whose height has reached mythic proportions in the intervening decades, ultimately a sizable snack of candy bars and grape soda got the better of him afterwards.
“I’d forgotten about everything I was holding inside … and I’m not talking about love,” Harley said to an uproar from the audience.
Ferlatte, who told a variation of “Sleeping Beauty” titled “Sleeping Ugly,” said that her stories this weekend should bring “truth, laughter, fun, and hopefully a little inspiration.”
She warmed up the audience with a sing-along spinoff of “The Rooster Song,” looking to the crowd to supply key words and phrases.
“This is an African-American song, so you have to be on time,” she said.
Lepp, a Storytelling Festival of Carolina frequent flier, recalled the weekend when he first met his wife — though Lepp’s near-death experience aboard a horse named Diablo dominated the action.
“This horse was the single largest land mammal that I had ever seen,” he said. “That horse was half horse, half elephant, and half giraffe.”
Lepp’s recollection of the hair-raising escapade was worthy of a five-time winner of the West Virginia Liars’ Contest, including as it did a jump through a tree, an alligator, and several horse trailers as well as an attempt to flout convention and look the “gift horse” in the mouth.
“I didn’t want to die,” Lepp said. “I didn’t want to die for lots of reasons, one of them being that I was trying to impress a hot chick. Now, I know hot chick isn’t politically correct, so I’ll say woman of attractive descent.”
Storytelling begins today and Sunday at 9:30 a.m. Gates at the John Blue House open at 8:30 a.m.
One-day tickets are $25 per adult and $8 per child, or $69 for a family of five. Two-day tickets are $40 per adult and $10 per child, or $85 for a family.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-1369.