Cap’s Off to You!–R.E.A.C.H. Utah / Utah Pirate – and Celebrating Story

REACH Utah - Utah Pirate collage

Featuring:  R.E.A.C.H. Utah – Utah Pirate

501(c)(3) Nonprofit of Story, Imaginative Play, & Much More

Photo Credit: Vladimir Chopine

The skeleton flag billows out from the pirate ship through R.E.A.C.H. Utah / Utah Pirate across many lands–from FanX to the Utah Renaissance Faire. Oftentimes, R.E.A.C.H. Utah is shared on the same line as Utah Pirate. Though this organization is much more than pirate ships that inspire imaginative play. These people dress as pirates, mermaids, and even King Arthur himself as they enter schools to teach how to develop stories while simultaneously teaching anti-bullying, literacy, history and the arts. We are thrilled that they participated at the 4th Annual Story Crossroads Festival during the “We All Have Stories” Family Marketplace.

On May 15, 2019, the wind was summoned and that skeleton flag waved to all who came. Some families and Cub Scout groups explored the ship and created their own stories as they became pirates themselves. They met a mermaid, whose red hair cascaded down her shoulders.

We had hoped to have at least 400 people attend the “We All Have Stories” Family Marketplace. We had no more than 150 people. Perhaps people were worried to fly away in the wind.  Yet, the people who did come were delighted and clamored about the pirate ship.  The Story Train, that rode near the pirate ship, had many passengers.  Several vendors had to weigh down their canopies with water jugs or cement blocks.  One of the canopies blew out from the volunteers attempting to put it up.  One person even landed on the canopy due to the intense wind.  Thankfully, everyone was fine…except for the canopy.

Though, the pirate ship was never in danger of collapsing.  That ship was built to withstand any storm.

Starting an organization like R.E.A.C.H. Utah / Utah Pirate can be as adventurous as facing a storm.  Mandy Brown and Tyler Young are the main strength behind R.E.A.C.H. Utah / Utah Pirate. Mandy, in particular, founded the whole idea and already had experience working with elementary schools. She formerly worked for the Utah Board of Education and is aware of the latest on curriculum standards and what teachers are in need of most.  Tyler joined the team in 2014, about a year after Mandy brought the organization into being.

Many other volunteers and people work with them including support from Dungeon Crawlers Radio and Paragon City Games.

Here are the R.E.A.C.H. Utah programs (from website):

King Arthur Anti-Bullying

King Arthur and his Knights come into your schools and classrooms to teach about the topic of anti-bullying. We not only teach how to deal with a bully, but also teach how bullying affects everyone involved.

Every Day Super Hero

We bring in various super heroes (such as Spiderman, Batman, or Wonder Woman) to teach that every person has a super hero inside. We also teach that being a super hero is more than just putting on a costume or having a super power.


We currently offer interactive lessons in Siege weapons, Pirates, including Pirate History, Map Making and Pirate Flags, the Medieval Time period and Renaissance time period. These lessons are taught by various characters.


We offer a creative writing class, where we emerge the students into a story line and have them finish out. Striking the imagination and helping them learn to use it.


We currently offer basic lessons in Renaissance art using Michelangelo. We construct an art challenge to show students how difficult it was for him to paint the Sistine Chapel.


We currently offer basic lessons in Siege weapon history, including the science, technology and math behind them. This lesson, kids get to use and fire siege weapons and make their own mini catapults.

So toss, tip, or take off your cap to R.E.A.C.H. Utah / Utah Pirate!

Take a picture anytime you see their ship at various events and parades.  Post on their Facebook page or your own page to show how far that ship has sailed.  Add the hashtag  #FoundTheShip.

We also have year-round events such as the monthly house concerts and the 5th Annual Story Crossroads Festival that will be on May 13, 2020.

Cap’s Off to You!–Clever Octopus – and Celebrating Story


Clever Octopus collageFeaturing:  Clever Octopus

Provider of Mini Grant for Story-Related Crafts

As soon as I heard the name “Clever Octopus,” I knew it was an organization that Story Crossroads needed to partner with in some way.  So far, Clever Octopus is the one and only creative reuse center in Utah.  Do you have anything that could be turned into art? Donate there.  Want any art materials?  Paints, wood, canvas, scrapbook materials, and the unique items that you didn’t even know you needed…you will find it there.  You also find the most glorious prices with items being many times 70% or more off than found in retail stores.  Mainly teachers, who often pay out-of-pocket to make learning even more fun and art-centered, know of Clever Octopus and word is spreading fast.  Many of the Clever Octopus staff are Change Leaders, a special program taught through the Utah Division of Arts and Museums. I reached out to the people of Clever Octopus and said, “Can we meet?  Can I get a tour?”  I met with Jen Lopez, the Founder and pictured in the Clever Octopus collage picture above holding up the yarn (and sells out fast).  She also met my 4 1/2-year-old daughter.  That’s a story….

I meant to have someone watch my daughter while I met with Jen.  My daughter is the one in the picture on the bottom right.  Can you tell by that smile that she has a lot of energy?  She is my ultra-happy child, and she is the same one that I attempt to train on how to be a good audience member or how to wait with patience while mom tries to talk to other people about Story Crossroads.

Despite being a couple hours before their huge Warehouse Sale, Jen had one of her people transform my daughter into a helper.  My daughter got to roll up bits of fabric  and was proud to show me her accomplishments. Without Jen’s quick thinking and kindness, my daughter would have been constantly distracted by the bins and bins of sparkly, crinkly, whirly, and clumpy bits of potential art project materials.

Jen shared their hope for more space and a larger building as the Warehouse was brimming and beyond with all the donations from people.  They always had something to sort and price to be ready for the droves of people who come to purchase the items. She talked about the creation of Mini Grants of $50 or so that people or organizations can apply for and put towards making something inspiring or plain fun.  She said my timing was amazing for the online application was to be available within a week.

The same day the application was available, we applied.  We wanted to have wooden blocks and paints to make Story Blocks.  Each family would get three blocks.  They could create four characters (two on each side of the block) and two scenes (again, two on each side of the block).  Then, the family can create stories depending on what side they face out and position them. We are excited to have these for our “We All Have Stories” Family Marketplace launching at the 4th Annual Story Crossroads Festival on May 15, 2019.

My boys aged 9 and 11 helped wheel out the huge bin of wooden blocks and paints.  We even found some felt scrapbook embellishments with lizards, frogs, castles, fish, and more that would work perfect as finger puppets.

Coming up is the Birthday Party of Clever Octopus.  They will turn two years old on April 20, 2019 and are holding the OctoPalooza on Saturday, April 20, 2019 from 7:00pm-11:00pm at 12 South 400 West, Salt Lake City, UT  84101. This celebrates their accomplishments while being a FUNdraiser. You can learn more here:

Besides the Birthday Party, they have regular art workshops for a nominal fee plus they have the Octopod.  What is that exactly?  This is what they say about it on their website:  The Octopod mobile outreach vehicle is a fully equipped mobile classroom, stocked with a plethora of materials for creative exploration and staffed by Clever Octopus’ artists. The Octopod will host classes throughout the Salt Lake Valley and beyond when it visits schools, adult care facilities, residential treatment centers, community outreach programs, community festivals, and private events.

Now you want to REALLY connect with them?  Story Crossroads is pleased to receive their help through the Mini Grant with other adventures with Clever Octopus on the brink…or briny sea.

So toss, tip, or take off your cap to Clever Octopus!

We also have year-round events such as the monthly house concerts and the 4th Annual Story Crossroads Festival that will be on May 15, 2019.

Cap’s Off to You!–Dave and Carol Sharp – and Celebrating Story

Glastonbury Duo (Dave & Carol Sharp)

Featuring:  Dave and Carol Sharp – Idlewild duo aka Glastonbury duo

Story Musicians, Visual Artists, Supportive Spouses

Some people get to enjoy the arts with their spouse…not just as an audience member but as a partner in every way on the stage.  When I first met Dave and Carol Sharp, it was at the Olympus Chapter Meeting with the Utah Storytelling Guild.  People kept saying that “you have to meet them!”  They had so many performances, their showings at the Chapter Meetings were rare.  Yet, they tended to make the annual Chapter Christmas parties.  Normally, people bring a dish to share.  Dave and Carol brought their instruments.  I was enraptured as Carol played a harp carved herself with a majestic bird looking upon her as she swept her hands across the strings.  Dave added to the atmosphere and told stories with energy, delight, and–at times–tenderness.  We were glad to have witnessed the intimate and wondrous performance that night.

Since that time, I have seen Dave and Carol as advocates for anyone in the arts–especially musicians–as well as supporting interfaith performances.  They give of their time and talents freely while being a standard in performance.

Dave and Carol Sharp performed during the inaugural Story Crossroads Festival and have since told stories and played instruments at several fundraising house concerts for us.  In fact, they will be performing “Tales of Haunted Japan” in Ogden at the Tobin Home on Friday, February 1, 2019 from 7:00pm-8:30pm.  Come if you can.  See their February 1st House Concert and other monthly House Concerts here.

While usually delving in the performing arts, they both have sculpting abilities.  Carol tends to keep those skills to her instruments, while Dave also creates instruments and commissioned pieces with some sculptures taller than doors!  Dave has had many gallery exhibits with his carvings, paintings, and other 2-D and 3-D pieces.  One day, Dave surprised me with a remarkable raccoon mask that my family delights in whether on the wall or used for my own storytelling.

Let us find out a little more about Dave and Carol from them.  As usual for their performances, they did their answers in tandem.

What got you started in storytelling?

We got started in storytelling when fellow animator Mark Gollaher asked us to play Celtic music for his Irish Tales. We played music with the tales much like a movie score and did the sound effects for the stories. We toured with Mark and Terra Allen for Arts Inc, and one day I told Carol that “I would love to tell stories like Mark.” In the Animation studio, the animators were always doing character voices for one another. We had played Celtic and Old Time American Traditional music for many years and had introduced the music and its history to the audiences, often like a narrative story.

Why delve into storytelling?

Storytelling had the additional advantage of adding new performance venues for our duo or larger band. We performed Renaissance Fairs around the west with our music and stories and felt that the music enhanced the stories and stories the music. We were part of the Utah performing arts tour for eight years and often did our stories in our music gigs whereever it seemed appropriate or where we had a mixed audience of families.

What are you best known for and what will do do with storytelling in the future?

Our Celtic stories went over well and since we had famous Pioneer ancestors that took part in the building of the West we began writing stories in that vein as well. We’ve branched off most recently into Japanese ghost stories and Norse Sagas which we plan to write more of. We were planning to write and illustrate some children’s story books and make recordings and YouTube videos of each of them.

So toss, tip, or take off your cap to Dave and Carol Sharp!

We also have year-round events such as the monthly house concerts and the 4th Annual Story Crossroads Festival that will be on May 15, 2019.

Cap’s Off to You!–Jerri and Katie Hurley – Mother/Daughter Duo – and Celebrating Story

Jerri and Katie Hurley collageJerri Hurley came into the world of storytelling due to the talent of her daughter, Katie.  For the past three Story Crossroads Festivals, Katie has earned one of the cherished spots through one of our feed-in events, the Murray Storytelling Festival.  Not even half of these wonderful Murray youth tellers continue on to the county-level of our Festival. This in and of itself is amazing.  Then, add to that the volunteerism from Jerri who serves as the Hospitality Chair with the Story Crossroads Board.

DSC_0033Jerri said she was impressed by the Festival and all the ways that the community became involved.  She wished to support Story Crossroads. Jerri sent along a picture of Katie with Mara Menzies, one of our featured tellers of that year from Scotland.

We gladly welcomed Jerri. In return, she welcomed our out-of-state professional story artists to the Salt Lake Valley and personalized the items that the story artists could take home with them to remember Utah. For  example, she knew that Brian “Fox” Ellis loved bird watching. He received a book on Utah birds and then Jerri worked out a trip for Brian to go to the planned a trip to Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge between performances and outreaches for Story Crossroads.  She also honored the amazing Utah professional story artists with special goodie bags.

During August, the Granite School District invited Rachel Hedman to teach two different storytelling workshops while introducing people to Story Crossroads.  Rachel knew this only could be done if each of the workshops were kicked off with a youth teller performing for these teachers.  Katie Hurley was one of these selected youth.  She did a wonderful rendition of “Tops and Bottoms” on two neighbors figuring out how to share what they have grown.

Then last September, Story Crossroads had the opportunity to have a booth at the Boy Scouts of America Jamboral celebrating 100 years in Utah.  Jerri and Katie volunteered to help out.  As Janine Nishiguchi and Rachel Hedman performed tandem ghost stories the night before with the Scouts and Leaders, this spooky theme continued on with the booth.  The people spun the Scary Story Starter and found out which one of the four beginnings would be theirs to build and shake our bones.  One lady told the Hurleys that this was the best booth in the entire Jamboral.  There was always a line of Scouts, anxious to tell stories…and to earn one to four pieces of candy depending on how developed their stories turned out.

To handle the lines, Katie decided to perform for a small group of Scouts.  Katie has grown her repertoire after a few years telling for the Murray Storytelling Festival and the Story Crossroads Festival.  One of the groups of Scouts were those with special needs.  All were enthralled.

Jerri captured some of the moments as seen in the pictures above.  She wrote to us, “Katie is loving helping out with the booth.”  We know that we will count on Katie–and her mother–many more times.

So toss, tip, or take off your cap to Jerri and Katie Hurley!

We also have year-round events such as the monthly house concerts and the 4th Annual Story Crossroads Festival that will be on May 15, 2019.