IF YOU GO
WHAT: Bil Lepp, liar and storyteller
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22
WHERE: Killens Pond State Park Nature Center
ADMISSION: Admission to the park is $3 per in-state vehicle, $6 per out-of-state vehicle
MORE INFO: Call 739-9191, or visit www.destateparks.com or www.buck-dog.com
Bil Lepp is a liar and proud of it. It sounds more exciting than saying he’s a storyteller.
“It opens a lot of doors,” he said. “If you say storyteller, people think you’re going to tell ‘Little Red Riding Hood.’ If you say liar, people are interested in what you have to say.”
Lepp will keep local audiences entranced at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, when he returns for a second year to Killens Pond State Park.
Lepp’s hilarious tall tales don’t actually sound that unlikely. They sound more like humiliating stories that come out about five beers into a family reunion. The Renaissance man holds a master’s in theology from Duke Divinity School but has spent the past 19 years as a professional storyteller. He’s traveled the country to nearly 70 storytelling festivals, winning first place at the National Storytelling Contest in 1999. He’s a liar at heart, though; Lepp is the five-time champion of the West Virginia Liars’ Contest.
“I think storytelling, tall tale telling, is part of if not West Virginia then part of Appalachian culture,” he said.
So much so that he’s a liar, his son’s a liar and his daughter’s a liar. All of them have won the West Virginia title. The only immediate family member who hasn’t is his wife, and she gets heckled for it.
Lepp has found that if he gets the urge to do something and it could have disastrous results, it’s probably going to make for a funny story. For instance, recently he was helping out in his mother-in-law’s church and noticed its new, $13,000 window. He also happened to be holding a plunger. Hmmm … he wondered if he could javelin the plunger across the room and get it to stick on the window? Luckily for his marriage, he didn’t do it. It made for a great story, though.
A common co-conspirator in Lepp’s stories is Buck, the storyteller’s half-German Shepherd, half-Basset Hound. The cylindrical beast — three feet long, one foot wide, and six inches off the ground — is one of Lepp’s stars. If guests are lucky, they’ll hear about the duo’s dogsledding adventure with Mrs. Lepp’s kayak.
People like to explore the foolish things they, or people they know, have done, he said. All his programs are family friendly, so kids will get a kick out of Lepp, too.
He said kids take away some humorous cautionary tales. They learn how to be good citizens by not doing what Lepp talks about.
“I think my stories teach lessons about friendship and loyalty,” he said.
His stories are a treat for all ages, according to Ray Bivens, Delaware State Parks chief of environmental education.
“Delawareans owe it to themselves to spend an hour or so listening to and seeing Bil. His stories appeal to everyone, and they are just downright funny, too,” he said.