Roaring Fork Valley Storytellers raise awareness of the craft and group through ‘Liar’s Contest’ on Saturday |

Roaring Fork Valley Storytellers raise awareness of the craft and group through ‘Liar’s Contest’ on Saturday

Judges of the Roaring Fork Valley Storytellers' "Liar's Contest" try to determine whether the stories are true or false.
Courtesy photo

Under the (very) general heading of storytelling, at one end we have non-fiction — history, science, journalism. And at the other, fiction — novels, fables, tall tales.

And then we have the Roaring Fork Valley Storytellers’ annual “Liar’s Contest” on Saturday at The Mountain Chalet from 4-6 p.m. Absolutely true, pure balderdash? Something neither fish nor fowl? Never mind conservatives’ cracks about such an event being much like paging through the daily paper’s latest edition.

The group has been doing this since 2018, so they’ve had some practice making the fib contest honestly challenging.

“This is our sort of tribute at the end of the school year. It’s not for children; it’s definitely for adults, and it’s to bring awareness to what we do here in the valley,” said Jill Sheeley, president of the Roaring Fork Valley Storytellers. “I’m honored to be a part of this amazing organization that sends trained storytellers into schools and special events throughout the Roaring Fork Valley to keep the tradition of oral storytelling alive.”

The author of eight children’s books about her yellow Lab Fraser, she’s no stranger to holding storytelling sessions around Aspen with groups of children.

She was recruited by Germaine Dietsch, the founder of the non-profit organization Spellbinders, whose mission is to connect seniors and children through intergenerational oral storytelling in schools. It seemed like a natural fit.

“I knew Germaine really well, and I was already storytelling with all my children’s books at the time,” said Sheeley. “One day, she said, ‘You know, you should really take our training and become a Spellbinder.’ I was intrigued. It was fascinating to me because I intuitively told stories, but I didn’t know that much about the whole tradition. I took the training, and I’ve been with them for 10 years now. I ended up becoming the president.”

Jill Sheeley, president of The Roaring Fork Valley Storytellers, encourages the community to join the organization.

Roaring Fork Valley Storytellers is now an affiliate to Spellbinders but operates as its own non-profit organization. Their mission is to train volunteers of any age, though many are retirees, to go into schools in Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs and connect with young people through storytelling.

“Germaine used to say that storytelling enhances literacy. It encourages character development. And the fact that elders are going into the schools, it also builds an intergenerational community,” said Sheeley. “We tell the kids to put on their imagination hats, and that this is going to be a story that is not necessarily out of a book. But they’re going to have to make their own images in their mind. And they get it right away. These kids are so smart.”

For Saturday’s “Liars Contest,” the audience will hear stories told by local storytellers Nina Gabianelli, Mike Monroney, Sylvia Wendrow, and Barb Shaw. Mayor Torre, Pitkin County Commissioner Steve Child, and actor Chris Wheatley will serve as judges, all with plenty of experience in the practice of the high and low arts of, um, storytelling.

The format consists of each of the four tellers telling a seven- to-eight-minute story, after which the judges, with vocal audience participation, will deliberate on whether each story is true or false.

“The judges banter back and forth. They get the audience involved,” said Sheeley, “The bantering of those judges, and the chemistry that they have together, is raucous and fun and hysterical and then they have true or false placards. We award tellers who tell a false story with a Pinocchio nose, and it’s just a lot of fun.”

The Roaring Fork Valley Storytellers’ “Liar’s Contest” returns Saturday at Mountain Chalet from 4 to 6 p.m.
Courtesy photo

There will be a cash bar, complimentary appetizers, and no cover charge.

The audience will also learn more about the Roaring Fork Storytellers and how they can get training if they wish to become involved.

Currently, the requirements are four sessions of training spanning two weeks. The hours are flexible and the next training will be in the late summer. If interested, contact Kim Stacey at or Jill Sheeley at

And a clue with this story: No need to raise the “Bull…” placard. The whoppers come Saturday.

If you go…

What: Roaring Fork Valley Storytellers “Liars Contest’
When: Saturday, 4-6 p.m.
Where: Mountain Chalet, Aspen
There will be a cash bar, complimentary appetizers, and no cover charge. Everyone is welcome, but spaces fill up quickly.

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