Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Starry storytelling festival planned for summer

Weekend will look at different cultures by focusing on the sky

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Kensington will host another storytelling festival this summer, but rather than focusing on books, the festival will focus on the stars and how different cultures interpret them.

Town officials said that ‘‘Look Up! The StarryTelling Festival” will be held July 20, three months after the town’s annual International Day of the Book Festival, a street festival focused on literary arts.

‘‘It’s meant to introduce families and children to astronomy and space exploration through storytelling mostly,” said Takoma Park resident Elizabeth Wallace, event organizer.

The festival will feature an assortment of astronomy and storytelling presentations, telescopes and an inflatable planetarium that holds about 70 people.

Wallace said storytellers will come from as far away as Oklahoma and Maine to be a part of the weekend-long festival, which will be held in Takoma Park on July 19, then in Kensington on July 20.

If the day is successful it could serve as the base for a larger astronomy festival in 2009, Kensington Town Councilman Sean McMullen said. Events all over the world will commemorate Galileo Galilei’s 400th birthday in 2009. The Italian mathematician and astronomer built the first telescope to observe stars, planets and moons.

Wallace approached Kensington Mayor Peter Fosselman earlier this month about having another festival in the summer.

The town already hosts the annual International Day of the Book Festival in April, as well as Fourth of July and Memorial Day parades and festivals.

Fosselman said that an astronomy event would certainly be unique.

‘‘I think it’s something that could be a nice event for the town,” he said. ‘‘If it’s successful then we will continue [it]. There was some talk of eventually coordinating it with the Day of the Book, too.”

Wallace hopes that by telling stories of constellations and stars, the event will provide lessons on other cultures. The mother of two children said she developed a passion for creating cultural immersion programs through her professional life.

For 29 years, she ran a business in Washington that obtained work visas and passports for executives and foreign ambassadors traveling overseas. She said her children were exposed to so many different cultures because they were always around different embassies.

Now retired, she organizes cultural events around Takoma Park and wanted to create an event that educated people about the stars and their place in oral traditions around the world.

‘‘It’s about learning astronomy, but also to introduce people to the ways that different cultures look and see the same set of stars and interpret them,” she said.

She said different cultures have different explanations for the Milky Way galaxy, our planet’s galaxy that appears as a cloudy stream in the night sky when seen through telescopes.

The galaxy is a bridal vale in some European stories, a bird’s path in Korean stories and a silver river in other Asian folklore.

‘‘There are so many clues to cultures in their star stories,” she said. ‘‘By pulling those stories apart you can start getting into their ideas.”