KEARNEY — Amherst, Lexington, Grand Island, Axtell, Kearney — Marlene Hansen, one of the organizers of the Kearney Area Storytelling Festival, listed the towns where the 2020 festival will reach.

“During a normal year we reach about 4,200 people with the festival,” she said.

The annual five-day event offers public telling with two national tellers, Adam Booth and Noa Baum, as well as events in schools. Hansen said the tellers have the ability to touch on many subjects and emotions, “putting their finger on the pulse of the world.”

“The school-age audiences are wonderful,” Hansen noted. “They are very engaged and there are no discipline problems, no matter how many kids they have in the room. The kids are there to listen — and they do. The tellers get the kids caught up in the stories and everybody has a good time.”

The festival begins with a telling by Baum at 12:45 p.m. Tuesday at the Peterson Senior Activity Center. The festival will wrap up with three events on Jan. 25. All of the storytelling events are free.

Sign up for Kearney Hub daily news updates

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Baum, an award-winning storyteller, grew up in Israel. She brings stories that draw on diverse cultures, her own Jewish heritage along with personal experiences that highlight our similarities, celebrate our differences and encourage curiosity, awareness and acceptance.

Baum will present a special event, “A Land Twice Promised,” at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Kearney Public Library. Baum drew from her conversations with a Palestinian woman she met in the United States for the story, taking on the personalities of four women, two Israelis and two Palestinians. Because of the length of the presentation Hansen said the telling will start exactly at 7 p.m. The nature of the content lends itself to more mature audiences.

Storyteller and musician Booth blends traditional mountain folklore and music with an awareness of contemporary Appalachia. The teller lives in West Virginia and draws heavily on the stories he heard while growing up in that region.

Both tellers also will offer workshops for adults interested in learning more about storytelling.

Hansen notes that the national tellers have stories designed for younger audiences as well as more mature groups of people.

“The Saturday afternoon performances are always fun because it’s truly a mixed group,” she said. “You’ve got people there with their toddlers and then you have older people. To me it would be hard, but the tellers always reach out to the audience and everybody enjoys it. They have to find stories that will please everyone.”

Stories for Adults, at 7 p.m. Jan. 25 at The Table Church, gives the tellers a chance to weave more complex stories.

“That’s always my favorite,” Hansen said. “It seems to be the crowning touch of the week because it’s sometimes more serious. They delve into topics that are too difficult for kids to understand. The tellers put their finger on the pulse of the world. They really reach into your life.”