History of WISTGET

HISTORY OF THE WISCONSIN STORYTELLERS’ GET-TOGETHER

The history and development of an annual gathering of Wisconsin tellers actively engaged in the art and practice of storytelling.

A short history and development of an annual gathering of Wisconsin storytellers and how to get involved. The Wisconsin Storytellers’ Get-together (WISTGET) is an annual gathering of Wisconsin tellers actively engaged in the art and practice of storytelling.

This event was founded in 1987 with the collaboration of  Reid Miller of Blue Mound, WI. He contacted members of the three storytelling guilds active at the time: T.A.L.E.S. (Tri-Area Liars, Elaborators, & Storytellers) of Kenosha, The Madison Storytelling Guild, and M.A.S.T. (Milwaukee Area Story Tellers).

A small group gathered under the big tree at the Illinois Storytelling Festival July 25, 1987. It was decided that if this was to be an all state festival, it would be good to invite all of the known tellers in Wisconsin to come together, get to know each other, hear one another’s voices (stories), and create a strong, active base for the business of putting on a festival. A planning committee formed from the three guilds and organized the annual Get-together each year. With the slogan “Hear It in Wisconsin” the emphasis was on connecting with storytellers throughout the state and encouraging new tellers. The day included Story Swaps, shared meals, a juried Storytelling Concert, and a peer award for service to the storytelling community. The locations have varied over the years but most have been in camp or nature settings.

The first gathering of Wisconsin storytellers took place at YMCA Camp Edwards in East
Troy, Wis. on Saturday, October 18, 1987. The order of the day called for various swap
sessions, an evening concert of stories, a rousing camp supper (whereat one of the camp
councilors regaled everyone with a story of his own!), and time in between to meet and chat with
one another. At the end of the day everyone sat down to discuss possibilities for the Wisconsin
Storytelling Festival. The response was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the format just the
way it was that day and, instead of a festival for the public, have an annual gathering for
Wisconsin storytellers. From the beginning, there was a spirit of cooperation and mutual
encouragement. Thus, the first official Wisconsin Storytellers’ Get-together was held at YMCA Camp Minikani in Hubertus, Wis. September 10, 1988. Thereafter, the Saturday of the last full
weekend in September became the chosen day for the annual event.

About 1997 storyteller Hardy Garrison of Marshfield created the Wisconsin Storytelling website which offered a place to list Wisconsin tellers, events, guilds and WISTGET news.  Karen Wollscheid took over about 2007 and Karen Wendt is the current webmaster as of 2018.

During the 2020/2021 Covid Pandemic, the WISTGET committee used the Zoom platform to host an online version of the event. In 2022, WISTGET went back to Mosquito Hill in person but included a Zoom option. The Whitewater Chamber of Commerce planned a storytelling festival for September 2021, not having knowledge of the fall WISTGET event. The committee met and decided to move to April in order to not conflict with the fall Whitewater Festival and the fall Illinois Storytelling Festival.  On April 29, 2023, a weekend event was held at the MacKenzie Educational Center with a Zoom option for Saturday. The committee chose to stay with a spring event, holding the April 27, 2024 event at the Columbus Community Center.