Everyone in New Hampshire has a story to tell. When people think of a "storyteller" they often think of a polished performer with a repertoire of time-honored recitations, legends of the past, or tales of great imagination. But in New Hampshire, storytellers are often everyday people with a gift for language and a wealth of human experiences. They come from every walk of life - the logger down the road, the fellow you go snowmobiling with on the weekends, your co-worker at the woolen mill, or someone whose music you dance to at the town hall.
During the research for New Hampshire's presentation at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, fieldworkers interviewed over 450 individuals practicing a variety of traditional musical forms, crafts, and cooking and occupational skills. All of them shared stories that warmed the heart - stories with lessons about the environment, the way the past teaches us about the future, and the importance of community values. The stories reflected the strong sense of individualism in New Hampshire as well as people's desire to work together toward a common goal.
The heritage of the spoken word was celebrated in New Hampshire's Festival program, Celebrating New Hampshires Stories, but stories were also told through crafts, recipes, music and dance, and occupational skills. The "Music of New Hampshire" component of the program honored the musical heritage of Yankee, Franco-American, Polish, Scottish, Irish, Jewish, African-American, and Hispanic communities. The ''Home, Town, and Community" area focused on the cultural traditions that define New Hampshire's sense of place. Domestic and religious crafts and the important political heritage of New Hampshire - the community voice of town meeting and the national precedence of the first-in-the-country presidential primary - were explored in this area. "Ingenuity and Enterprise" examined the inventive nature of industry and small businesses in New Hampshire. The heritage of family-owned and community-based businesses and the way in which fine craftsmen network through guilds were presented. "Seasonal Work and Recreation" explored the cycle of the seasons and the love of the outdoors in New Hampshire, giving rise to the work culture and traditional crafts of recreation. "Farm, Forest, Mountain, and Sea" took a look at the occupations that have emerged from the state's diverse natural resources.
Betty Belanus and Lynn Martin were Curators, and Arlene Reiniger was Program Coordinator. A Program Research Committee included: Michael Chaney, J.B. Cullen, Fred Dolan, Jim Garvin, Becky Lawrence, Gail McWilliam, and Melissa Walker.
The program was produced with the New Hampshire Commission on the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and its non- profit affiliate Celebrate New Hampshire Culture in partnership with the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, Department of Cultural Resources, and the State of New Hampshire. The presenting sponsor was Bell Atlantic. Other major sponsors included Fleet Bank NH; Healthsource New Hampshire, A CIGNA Healthcare Company; Public Service of New Hampshire; Sanders, A Lockheed Martin Company; Tyco International Ltd.; Fidelity Investments; Fisher Scientific International Inc.; and The Recording Industries Music Performance Trust Funds.