Perhaps what makes the inaugural “Wine Country Spoken Word Festival” so intriguing to Dave and Juliet Pokorny is not knowing what to expect out of their guests, since nothing is scripted. They simply knew it was time to do something big in their own little town.
Filling a void from the Bay Area Storytelling Festival, which closed in 2016 after 30 years, this is the first U.S. spoken word fest that merges all forms, according to Dave Pokorny. While existing in Dublin and Amsterdam, a crowdfunding campaign helped put it on here.
“There are storytelling festivals all over the country,” said Pokorny in a phone interview, “but there is no combined spoken word festival in the United States. This is it.”
And in response to this week’s fire disaster in Sonoma County, Pokorny has decided to offer discounted $5 tickets to Friday night and Saturday events, and donate half the proceeds to fire victims and their families.
“Storytelling, comedy and poetry can be healing and our goal is to use this weekend as a way to bring our community together,” said Pokorny. “We know there’s no way to bring back the property our neighbors, friends and families have lost, but by
bringing our community together, we hope people can start to heal, support each other and commune using the power of live storytelling.”
The three-day event opens with a gala at 6 p.m. today in Petaluma’s Della Fattoria, with performances by more than 25 artists. From best-selling authors, national storytellers, poets and stand-up comedians, there’s a lot to see, such as Ghost Stories at midnight, where $5 tickets can get you in the door at Brewsters Beer Garden today.
A high point for many that night will be at 11 p.m., when author Amanda McTigue, a 2013-2014 West Side Stories Grand Slam winner, will tell a spooky tale, with traditional teller Cathryn Fairlee, TEDx speaker Brandon Spars and Hal McCown, by a fire at Brewsters Beer Garden.
“My goal is to make it feel like we finished dinner, there’s some peach pie, everybody’s relaxed and now we’re getting to the good stuff,” said McTigue in a phone interview.
Known for writing “Going to Solace” in 2012, Californians enjoy her tales of growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, a place that’s all over the notion of ghosts. McTigue will be sharing a true ghost story from that part of her life, and the rest is a secret.
“I don’t lean toward ghost stories,” said McTigue. “My material is usually some fabric of everyday life: the oddities, people, characters. That’s what I’m often telling stories about.”
Saturday’s lineup could be a tough choice for those who want to see their favorites. From 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. at Hotel Petaluma will be special guest Willy Claflin, sought-after poet Steve Connell, storytelling favorite Bil Lepp and a monthly Do Tell Story Swap.
Simultaneously at Della Fattoria: a poet-trio, liars contest, solo artist Akwi Nji and The Write Spot author reading. Concurrently at The Big Easy: West Side Stories Petaluma slam, comedian Mickey Joseph, artist Leslie Scatchard and a Poetry Out Loud contest.
The festival headliner finale includes New York Times best-selling author Sarah Vowell, Lepp, a five-time West Virginia Liars Contest champion, and Connell, who performed for former President Barack Obama, the U.N. and Oprah Winfrey, at 7:30 p.m. in Mystic Theatre.
What: Wine Country Spoken Word Festival
When: 3 p.m. to 12 a.m. today; 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Della Fattoria, Brewsters Beer Garden, Hotel Petaluma, The Big Easy, Mystic Theatre, all in Petaluma
Information: 707-477-4416, davepokornypresents.com