Tonganoxie’s Kelly named master storyteller at state festival
Keyta Kelly is now a master storyteller — and the first woman to earn the distinction — after 26 years of the event at the Kansas Storytelling Festival.
Kelly, a Tonganoxie attorney, won her third tall-tale storytelling state contest in late April.
When a storyteller wins three times, they officially retire from the competition, but can return to tell more stories at future festivals, which always take place the fourth weekend in April in Downs, Kan.
She became the sixth person to earn master storytelling distinction. She also gets to keep the traveling trophy — a shovel with winners’ names etched in the wooden handle — for a year.
Kelly said she was happy to be the first woman to win the contest three times.
“I joke that it’s really easy for men to lie, but we have to work at it,” she said with a laugh.
The late Terry Koops was the first two win the award and the only to win it three consecutive years.
Kelly won her three titles in a stretch of five tries.
Her tall tale this year was loosely based on her February trip to Minnesota. Her husband, Michael, was at the Mayo Clinic for a kidney transplant, so the couple was in Rochester, Minn., for a month for the procedure and recovery.
It, of course, was very cold that month in Minnesota and Rochester was having its annual ice sculpture festival. In her tall tale, Kelly attended the festival, but spilled hot chocolate on herself while there. She subsequently froze — and became an ice sculpture herself.
“And it was really cold up there,” she noted. “You could have frozen.”
Rachel Kelly, one of Michael and Keyta’s children, also competed in the storytelling contest. Keyta said her daughter did well in the event. The festival doesn’t designate additional places after first, but Keyta thought her daughter performed well.
“It’s an amazing storytelling festival,” Keyta said. “It’s really something.”
She plans to compete in another storytelling contest next month, as the Missouri Liars Contest will be in July in Columbia, Mo.