Whitewater Storytelling Festival

Whitewater Storytelling Festival


Grab your imagination and join us in Whitewater, WI for our magical Whitewater Storytelling Festival!
Nestled in the beautiful and inspiring Kettle Moraine State Forest, Whitewater is home to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, the Young Auditorium, and a robust artist community supported by the Whitewater Arts Alliance. The community enjoys a rich history in educating future teachers and entertaining the region with world-class theater productions, innovative art exhibits, and a variety of musical offerings by university students, faculty, and locals alike.
We could not think of a better place to introduce the magic of storytelling and our annual Whitewater Storytelling Festival! The festival weekend will be filled with fun ways to engage with local and regionally known storytellers, art galleries, and creativity-inspiring activities. Stop for the day or stay for the weekend to take in the beauty of our Ice Age Trail community!

2022 Festival Scheduled For September 23-25, 2022

2021 Event Photos

Whitewater Storytelling Festival
Innaugural Event Commemorative Poster

The poster below was designed by students from Studio 84 a nonprofit art studio and gallery that specializes in the creative development of people with disabilities. We are honored to have their students create this poster for our first annual event! We will have a limited number of these on sale during the festival.

Commemorative Poster

The 2nd Annual Whitewater Storytelling Festival is happening September 23rd – 25th, 2022

Follow us on the Facebook event page for the most up to date announcements and details. See you this fall!

2021 Featured Storytellers

Kay Weeden

Kay Elmsley Weeden is on a mission to share stories and anecdotes that touch our lives and spread joy and humor. For more than 25 years she has recounted tales of intrigue and compassion, spinning yarns that illuminate the humanity in all of us. Formerly a public school teacher, she discovered storytelling as a fun, captivating, and powerful teaching tool.

Kay draws inspiration for her stories from her eclectic life’s experiences as an immigrant and unsupervised youth, a wife and mother, a dedicated non-profit organizer, a reluctant Army National Guard Member, a striving writer, and a cancer story researcher.  Annually she travels to Honduras with a medical mission and extended storytelling project in the schools. She currently is working with Hospice patients on their life’s stories. 

Sarah Beth Nelson

Sarah Beth Nelson directs the Library Media program at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. In addition to researching oral information, she studies the American reality (true, personal, edgy) storytelling movement. Sarah Beth has performed in the Classic City, Atlanta, Greensboro, and Cincy fringes; and in the Peach State, Joyful Jewel, and Stone Soup festivals. She has served on the boards of Southern Order of Storytellers (a Georgia guild), and the National Storytelling Network.

Angie Alesci

Angie Alesci is a trainer, educator, storyteller, and chaplain.  She has worked in youth ministry in addition to teaching communication and “coping with grief” classes for UW-Whitewater, as well as for local churches.  Angie has facilitated many art workshops for participants of all ages. She has a large collection of children’s literature and enjoys sharing stories with young nieces, nephews, and neighbors. Currently, Angie works for Aurora at Home Hospice in southeastern Wisconsin tending to patients and their families.  She has used this time during COVID-19 to build, reflect and help others create their Joy Toolkits

Jim May

Jim May is an Emmy award-winning storyteller, teacher, and author of the critically acclaimed “Farm On Nippersink Creek” and a children’s picture book, “The Boo Baby Meets The Ghost of Mable’s Gable”. A professional storyteller for over twenty-five years,  Jim May’s stories have taken him across the United States and Europe. He has told at schools, corporations, professional groups, and festivals across the land. Chicagoans know him from his appearances on WGN’s Roy Leonard Show and from the Studs Terkel radio show on WFMT-FM. He received a 1989 Chicago Emmy award for a WTTW-Channel 11 production of his original story, “A Bell For Shorty.” As an Emmy award-winning storyteller and author, Jim seeks to reestablish live storytelling as an art form, ideal not only for entertainment and education but also for the grounding and healing that is needed in complex, modern times.

Jim Winship

Jim Winship is a firm believer that stories enrich our lives in many ways, and his professional storytelling experience goes back several decades. He tells stories in libraries and at professional conferences, participates in Story Slams, and has been a performer in storytelling festivals in the Midwest.

Katy Daixon Wimer

Katy Daixon Wimer is a southern Wisconsin storyteller, soul dweller, poet, and photographer dedicated to reconnecting people to themselves and the natural world. Capturing who you are and telling your story while guiding you toward a deeper connection with yourself light Katy up. That’s where the magic happens. In her writing, she enjoys capturing the magic around us and the beauty of being human. Katy is a writer and healing artist who lives out by Whitewater Lake in a cozy home with her husband and two cats.

Coral Conant Gilles

As a Storytelling Naturalist, Coral lives in what is now known as Madison, WI on land that was taken from the Ho-Chunk people. She recognizes the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Myaamia, Ho-Chunk, Sauk and Meskwaki, Peoria, and Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo) people who loved and tended the land she now loves and tends. Coral became a storyteller accidentally while teaching environmental education in the Pacific Northwest. She is truly at home in wild places and uses her work to connect others to those places. Coral’s programs inspire curiosity, empathy, and connection with ourselves, each other, and nature. Coral primarily tells folk and fairy tales, with the occasional personal story.

Elizabeth Matson

Elizabeth Matson is a spinner of tales, folk and fairy, personal and collected. With Stuart Stotts, she collected stories of personal experiences with ghosts or other unexplained phenomenon from southwestern Wisconsin, which they shaped into stories to tell and published as The Bookcase Ghost: A Storyteller’s Collection of Wisconsin Ghost Stories (Midwest Traditions, 1996). She shares her stories with all ages and coaches a troupe of teen storytellers at the Hedberg Public Library in Janesville.

Justina Vickerman

Justina Vickerman is a natural storyteller. She grew up in a family that embraced all things creative. Her father was in the Navy so she spent a great deal of her childhood traveling and gathering experiences. She has a passion for genealogy and believes that each one of us, each of our families, has a story to tell. Her stories are generally about life events and her experiences working in Children’s Theater. She is an alumnus of the University of WI-Whitewater having majored in theatre and history, a practiced actor, and a member of the IATSE (Stagehands union). Her work backstage at the Children’s Theater of Madison has given her a wealth of tales of the behind-the-scenes chaos the audience doesn’t see in the world of theater.

2021 Featured Workshops & Activities


Gratitude & Joy

Recent survey data has indicated that individuals do not feel they have the right tools for self-care.  This workshop session will help participants discover different strategies of gratitude, humor, joy, and creative expression as practices for self-care and resiliency. Highlights will include,

  • Testing your gratitude level.
  • Looking at the positive effects of gratitude and developing ways to practice gratitude.
  • Learning strategies for building a Joy Toolkit.

Enjoy some fun hands-on creative activities to help you reflect and build your self-care toolbox.

Saturday, 10/16 12 – 1:30 pm
Workshop Presenter:  Angie Alesci
Workshop located at the Cravath Lakefront Community Center

Writing to Reconnect

This workshop is for anyone who wants to begin a journaling routine and/or deepen their journaling practice. Participants are given prompts to (re)discover and explore what matters most to them and will be given the time and space to notice the little things around them. 

Journals are an ideal place to reconnect with ourselves and reflect on life around us. They give us a moment to capture our own stories. Join local author and poet, Katy Daixon Wimer, as she offers participants a lifetime of self-reflection magic that makes you take a deep breath.

Saturday, 10/16 2 – 3:30 pm
Workshop Presenter: Katy Daixon Wimer
Workshop located at the Cravath Lakefront Community Center

Poetry in Prose: The Stories of August Derleth

David Schweitzer, member of the August Derleth Society, presents selections from Wisconsin’s best-loved son August Derleth. Derleth’s work is poignant and heartbroken, charming, and hilarious. Join us to watch master storyteller David Schweitzer at his finest.

Saturday, 10/16 4-5:30 pm
Workshop Presenters: David Schweitzer & Robert Graupner
Workshop located at the Cravath Lakefront Community Center

**Workshop space is limited, please arrive early to ensure a seat.

Click the map image below to see the Google Map of the event.

Storyteller Schedule

Friday, 10/15 – Campfire Stories
Cravath Lakefront Fire Pit

Come try your hand at storytelling! Have a story you want to share? Anyone is welcome to tell a tale or two. Join in on the fun!

5 – 6:30 pm ~ All ages sets (please keep content appropriate for listeners of all ages)
7 – 9:00 pm ~ Adult only sets

**Free activity-no tickets required

Saturday, 10/16 – All Ages Sets
Cravath Lakefront Park Amphitheater

10-10:45 am         Jim May
11-11:45 am          Elizabeth Matson
12-12:45 pm         Justina Vickerman
1-1:45 pm              Coral Conant Gilles
2-2:45 pm             Jim May
3-3:45 pm             Sarah Beth
4-4:45 pm             Kay Elmsley Weeden
5-5:45 pm             Katy Daixon


Saturday, 10/16 – Adult Only sets at the Whitewater Cultural Arts Center

7-7:30 pm             Jim Winship
7:45-8:15 pm        Kay Elmsley Weeden
8:30-9:00 pm      Jim May


Other Literary Happenings

Local Authors Faire & Readings

Saturday, 10/16 – 10 am to 2 pm
Downtown Whitewater 1st Street Community Gathering Block
Open Mic Night @ The Book Teller on 10/16 starting at 6 pm until there are no more performers!

Story Stroll

Read the children’s story “Maybe Something Beautiful” by Isabel Campoy while strolling with your family through Whitewater. The book will begin in Cravath Lakefront Park and meander through our quaint downtown and along Main Street.

**Story Stroll is sponsored by the Irvin L Young Library

Community Storybook Project

Stop into Studio 84 and help them write a unique book by adding a line to the story. The book that is created will be published as part of their annual program fundraising efforts. Add your unique piece of the story during their gallery hours on Saturday only.

Community Oral History Project

Saturday, 10/16 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Cravath Lakefront Park Picnic Shelfter
Stop by to share YOUR story! The Irving L. Young Memorial Library is collecting oral stories and spur-of-the-moment interviews with storytellers, visitors, and community members. Anyone is welcome to participate! Come tell us a personal story, recount an experience, or respond to one of the library’s prompts. Share your perspective and help capture the unique identity and impact of Whitewater.

Children’s Activity Zones

Story Zone

Reading Corner open 11 am – 4 pm
Sponsored by Whitewater Leads
Storytelling Sets
11:30 am-12 pm         Coral Conant Gilles
12:30 pm-1 pm           Sarah Beth
2 pm-2:30 pm            Kay Elmsley Weeden
3 pm-3:30 pm            Angie Alesci


Creativity Zone

The Creativity Zone is open 11 am – 4 pm
Activities and crafts available during the festival are sponsored by
  • UWW Roberta’s Art Gallery
  • Whitewater Parks & Recreation Department
  • Ice Age Trail Alliance of Walworth/Jefferson Counties
Special creative activity with
Coral Conant Gilles
2:30 pm – 3:30 pm        Nature Wands Activity

Special visit by Monty the Mammoth with the Ice Age Trail Alliance

Stories in Art

Local Art Exhibits

Whitewater Cultural Arts Center

Collaborative exhibit with UW-Whitewater students,  instructors, and alumni.
Gallery open Fri. & Sat. 10 am to 5 pm and Sun. 12-5 pm
Whitewater Arts Alliance calendar of exhibits & events

Roberta’s Art Gallery

Roberta’s is located in the UW-Whitewater University Center
Nowhere/ Now Here Exhibit
Artist – Diana H Chu
Gallery open Friday 10 am – 5 pm & Saturday 10 am – 1 pm

Crossman Gallery

The Crossman Gallery is located at UW-Whitewater in the Greenhill Center of the Arts.
Hyphenated” Exhibit with multiple artists
Gallery open Saturday 11 am – 4 pm

Studio 84

Studio 84 is a nonprofit art studio, gallery, and gift store that specializes in the creative development of people with disabilities. They are located in Downtown Whitewater.
Stop by to check out their student pieces and a special guest artist exhibit
Poetry, Painting, and Upholstery Fabric: A Journey through PTSD
Artist – Michael Tilbury
Gallery open during the festival on Saturday 10 am – 5 pm