2020 has been a year like none we have ever experienced, but that didn’t stop us from keeping storytelling alive in our schools and community. We worked with professional storytellers to bring the 33rd annual Jackson Storyfest to schools, senior centers, and homes virtually in the form of workshops, storytelling sessions, and the Storyfest Showcase!

All of our prerecorded sessions are available to enjoy until November 18 and can be found below:

Silver Tales: Songs and Stories for the Young at Heart

“Gemini” – twin brothers San and Laz Slomovits, along with special guest Emily – perform a mix of classic songs of the 60s and show tunes from Broadway musicals. To watch, click here.

Storytelling sessions:

Performances by storytellers from around Michigan were shared in local schools for Preschool through 12th grade.

Preschool-K: Karen Bonnici

K-2nd Grade: Robin Nott

K-2nd Grade: Jeff Doyle

3rd-5th Grade: Larry Castleberry

3rd-5th Grade: Genot Picor

6th-8th Grade: Judy Sima

6th-8th Grade: Jenifer Strauss

9th-12th Grade: La’Ron Williams

Storyfest Showcase

The festival culminated with the Storyfest Showcase, featuring eclectic performances by storytellers Jenifer Strauss, Robin Nott, La’Ron Williams, Judy Sima, Kinetic Affect and a musical finale by Jackson’s own Airtight. To watch, click here.

Questions? Contact our Community Engagement Department at

La’Ron Williams, Storyteller

Nationally acclaimed and multiple award-winning storyteller La’Ron Williams shares both original and traditional tales that appeal to a wide range of ages and social backgrounds. His energetic, music-spiced presentations are always fun, highly participatory, educational and entertaining. Every program is specifically designed to promote diversity, foster community building, encourage peaceful conflict resolution and teach a host of “pro-social” skills, including empathy, self-expression and attentive listening. Williams has received high praise for his skill at presenting diversity workshops for adults, helping participants understand the nature of “invisible” bias and moving beyond the emotional stumbling blocks that prevent us from taking collective responsibility for creating a just and equitable society.

Judy Sima, Storyteller, Author, Teaching Artist

Award winning Michigan storyteller, author, and teaching artist, Judy Sima has been delighting audiences since 1987. Judy’s warm, engaging performances combine folk, traditional and modern tales, with humor, song and loads of audience participation. Well known for her highly interactive and practical workshops, Judy has been featured at educational, library, and storytelling conferences across the nation. With over 20 years experience coaching students and adults, she has helped many others become storytellers.

Jenifer Straus – Storyteller, Narrative Consultant

“Let a Story be Told…Let a Story be Heard…Let a Story be told Again”

Dynamic and thought provoking…engaging and enthusiastic…heart-warming and educational…Jenifer Strauss Uses STORY to Enrich Lives! Offering a unique brand of energy-injected performances, workshops, trainings and keynotes, Jenifer shares her own unique blend of  traditional and personal tales to captivate, motivate, and inspire over 300 audiences a year.

As a  former classroom teacher of ten years, Jen discovered that the human brain is hard-wired for story. People think, learn, and imagine in narrative.  In 1993 she combined her passion for teaching and storytelling to found her narrative consulting business, Story Be Told to help educators, organizations, and individuals use story to connect, communicate, and achieve their goals.

Larry Castleberry – Storyteller

Larry Castleberry shares both his personal stories and insight of how the ancient martial art of Aikido can be used to resolve conflict in our daily life (with an emphasis on the day-to-day conflict that we encounter in a corporate setting). This renowned storyteller blends an exciting dynamic speaking style with touching personal stories to connect with the audience and provide them tools that they can immediately apply to resolve conflict.

Robin Nott – Shady Grove Storytelling and Traditional Music

Robin Nott combines storytelling and folk singing to awaken audiences of all ages to their authentic personal imaginative worlds. On the wings of a story and a song, Robin enables listeners to experience new worlds through the eyes of a child; pure, brightly colored, just, wonder-filled, and blessed with song.

Robin Nott has been storytelling and folk singing with audiences of all ages since 1983. Mr. Nott has told stories in schools, libraries, scout programs, state and national parks, churches, conferences, and festivals of all kinds. Robin Nott has been an arts educator for 42 years, has taught Oral Tradition (storytelling) for over 30 years, has directed theater since 1974, and has been a musician since 1964.

Genot Picor – Storyteller

Genot Picor (formerly Piqueur) is a storyteller, musician and dancer. In addition, he is a published free-lance journalist, retired public school teacher consultant and grant writer. Picor holds a Master’s Degree in Theatre Arts/ Interpretive/Performance Studies from Eastern Michigan University, specializing in oral tradition, narrative studies and the anthropology of performance. Genot uses all his talents to bring an interactive frontier history alive to audiences of all ages. His program is ideal for schools, festivals, art shows, museums, libraries and corporations. Each presentation is individually designed to meet the needs and requests of the hosting agency. If you’ve ever seen him perform, you’ll see that he looks and acts the part!

Karen Bonnici – Musician, Storyteller, Teaching Artist, Inventor

Linking her musical and theatrical work with the traditions of storytelling, her performances inspire audiences of all ages. Karen incorporates physical animation, characters, and stories and songs, both old and new to create an enlivening experience. Accompanying herself on the autoharp, she creates an interactive experience for audiences with her unique collection of traditional and original works. Karen’s performances, workshops, and classes for storytelling groups, schools, libraries, story slams, festivals, and more offer “edutainment” through the art of Storytelling.

Jeff Doyle – Storyteller/Humorist

Jeff started telling stories around the campfire at the family campout when his kids were elementary age.  His first story was The Blue Ape, which the kids asked to hear over and over again.  Before long, the kids were requesting new material and Jeff eagerly took to the task, eventually becoming the hit of campfire time. He joined the Ann Arbor Storytellers’ Guild in 2005 and his passion for developing and refining this art form has only intensified with each performance. Jeff enjoys telling all types of tales, but specializes in funny stories and scary stories, which range from the somewhat scary to the truly terrifying.

In October 2006, Jeff organized the very first Scary Story Festival at the Howell Opera House. The actual theater section of the Opera House looks essentially as it did when it closed in 1925. It has a reputation for being haunted and is the perfect venue for the telling of the scariest of stories, which occurs there annually.


@Airtight12 (Facebook)

Kinetic Affect

Kinetic Affect is a nationally-renowned, award winning duo. These highly dynamic keynote speakers and spoken word artists have made a career out of inspiring youth and adults to follow their passions and live life for today. Gabriel Giron, a survivor of cancer and former soldier in the US Army and Kirk Latimer, a survivor of his own destructive past, and former high school English teacher combine their voices to give audiences a truly one-of-a-kind motivational experience that they will NEVER forget.


We would like to offer a special thank you to all the following individuals, businesses, and organizations for their generous donations that allow us to bring Storyfest to the Jackson Community:

Larry Bullen in honor of Laurie LaZebnick

Woodlands Library Cooperative

Friends of the Jackson District Library

American 1 Credit Union

Linda Furgason

David and Gretchen Mikelonis


Louis Glick Memorial & Charitable Trust and Alro Steel Corporation

Gordon and Ellen Heins

Dillon and Associates, Inc. Investment Counsel


Jack Esterline

Jim and Joyce Grace

Jim Lefere

Catherine Nowak

Chuck and Pam Schultz

Jackson County Association of Retired School Personnel

Chris and Kelly Langley in memory of Benjamin Langley

Roy and Lois Kelly

Kurt and Lisa Rudolph

Jack V. Butterfield Investment Co.

Melanie Hilliard and Jason Mortiz

Frederick and Deborah Marshall

Marcia Whitehead

Chad and Jennifer Noble

Edward and Helen Greene

Margaret Tietjen

Janell Houser

Darold and Judy Ebersole

Grants: Jackson Literary & Arts

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