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  • Writer's pictureSue Hinkel

Perrin Stifle, 2019 Recipient of the National Storytelling Network's Oracle Award

What’s that you say? You’d enjoy a refresher on how this great man earned such laud & honor? Look no further than the nomination (by which he’s also honored) penned by Sue Hinkel, which reads as follows:

I have known and worked with Perrin Stifel for over forty years in storytelling in the St. Louis, MO, area. Because of my association with him I feel he is very deserving of this award.

The National Storytelling Festival was being held in Jonesborough, Tennessee. He went to the festival and loved it. He really became interested in bringing something like it to St. Louis, but wasn't sure just how to do it. He observed and questioned everyone at the festival to see if it were possible. Perrin came home from his experiences saying “Why can't we bring big name tellers to Missouri? Realizing it was not feasible to conduct a festival on the same scale in St. Louis, he started a conversation about doing it on a smaller scale. Perrin attended a variety of storytelling festivals in the St. Louis area. Later one of them was The St. Louis Storytelling Festival flourished and is now in its fortieth year. Perrin also started on the festival's behalf, a fund raising movement to support the festival which continues to this day.

Seeing a need for a statewide storytelling organization, Perrin started Missouri Storytelling, Inc in 1984. He and several other interested people met at his home charting a way to make the new organization viable. They started meeting with others and telling stories to each other. Right away, Perrin decided the group should make the leap to becoming a 501 c 3. The group worked with the Lawyers for the Arts and received the not for profit tax status.

Under Perrin's direction the group, commonly known as MO-TELL started some events on their own. They included the following:

1.The Missouri River Storytelling Festival in St. Charles, including Ghost Telling. The festival was originally held on the historic Goldenrod Showboat and later moved to the Katy Depot at Frontier Park, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition Museum. The festival brought in noted tellers from across the country and also always featured our own Missouri tellers.

2. Tellabration! MO-TELL brought NSN's Tellabration to a variety of locations across the St. Louis area. MO-TELL brought the first Tellabration! to Columbia, MO.

3. Missouri State Parks In a special relationship with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, several Missouri State Parks were provided access to the best of the MO-TELL tellers, typically in the Fall or Halloween season of each year. MO-TELL continues to this day supplying storytellers to 12 Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites. The tellers are paid through grants and donations. Perrin gives the largest financial support to this project.

4. The MO-TELL Register newsletter It regularly provided valuable information and connections to tellers, initially in print and later also in digital format. Last year, Perrin felt it was absolutely necessary to communicate with the storytellers in the state of Missouri through an updated newsletter and website. MO-TELL has a beautiful newsletter which is distributed monthly. The website is being recreated too.

5. St. Louis Storytelling Festival MO-TELL was a consistent partner in the annual St. Louis Storytelling Festival, the largest and oldest free storytelling festival in the country.

6. Spring Storytelling Retreat For many years the annual Spring Storytelling Retreat provided an opportunity for tellers to network, develop new skills, and enhance creativity in a camp or conference setting held in various locations. In later years, this retreat rotated leadership among the active organizations around the state. In the beginning, Perrin contacted the state parks personnel at the Department of Natural Resources and arranged for free cabin and site rentals if MO-TELL would book the park just before the season opened to get it ready. He did all the organization of these events, which included working out a budget, hiring cooks and tellers, advertising and volunteers. They were always a big success. With the budget cuts to state parks over the years, the spring events discontinued but gave rise to the Missouri River Storytelling Festival.

7. Workshops, Concert Series, an Annual Auction and Dinner This and many other special events were organized and provided by MO-TELL and its members.

8. Through the years membership in MO-TELL linked hundreds of tellers not only in Missouri, but neighboring regions as well. MO-TELL provided motivation, support, and opportunities for dozens of new tellers as well as renewal for experienced tellers.

9. The various storytelling guilds and organizations were connected through these activities and other communications of MO-TELL. Some of these organizations

included: Riverwind Storytellers(Illinois), Gateway Tellers (St. Louis), By Word of Mouth (Hannibal, MO), MOST(Columbia, MO), RAPS (Kansas City, MO), and others.

Perrin Stifel was a mentor for all of these groups. He helped some of them become not for profit organizations and even guided the meeting structure. He came up with ideas to help these organizations put on workshops and concerts. MO-TELL would often put up the seed money for these events which helped in the hiring of a variety of featured storytellers. MO-TELL did this for two years under Perrin.

Because of Perrin’s leadership, forward thinking, energy, ideas, and always being there to help, storytelling in the state of Missouri is still going strong. Perrin was instrumental in getting storytellers back into the state parks. Through his stewardship, influence, and support, tellers are in state parks. Missouri Storytelling, Inc., continues. The St. Louis Storytelling Festival is enjoying its 40th year. There is a Liar's contest in Missouri. Gateway Tellers, Riverwind storytellers, River and Prairie Storyweavers and SOTO are thriving storytelling organizations. Missouri Storytelling, Inc., is an affiliate of the National Storytelling Network.

Perrin was on the planning committees for 1987 NAPPS convention and the 2007 NSN conference, which were both held in St. Louis, MO. Perrin has served on the St. Louis Storytelling Festival planning committee, has been featured at the festival, and serves as emcee for many festival events. He continues to support MO- TELL as a board member emeritus.

It his spare time, he is a volunteer for St. Louis Tourism, and is an avid “1904 World Fair” expert. He is a volunteer storyteller in St. Louis city and county schools, and always tells his stories in his grandchild’s schools.

Perrin Stifel justly deserves the NSN Regional Service and Leadership Oracle Award.

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