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Back Porch Stories returns for evening of fun and fellowship

      A program of music and storytelling suitable for the whole family will be presented at 7:00 p.m. Friday, April 5, at the First United Methodist Church fellowship hall. Tickets for Back Porch Stories will be sold at the door for $5, children 10 and under free. Complementary coffee, tea, soft drinks, and cookies will be served in a cozy, "coffee house" atmosphere.
      On the playbill are storytellers Brenda Gilbert, Santa Cliff Snider, Leon Smith, and moderator J.A. Bolton.
      Gilbert first appeared at Back Porch Stories in 2014 and is returning by popular demand. She studied music at Greensboro College and theatre at East Carolina University, and has performed in many theatrical productions over the years. She spent over 25 years as the Director of School-Community Relations for Scotland County Schools. Gilbert began telling stories in 1980, when a middle school librarian invited her to tell stories to her students. Since then, Gilbert has told stories to tens of thousands of students in the Scotland County and surrounding school systems.
      She is the founder of the Story Spinners Storytelling Guild, co-founder of the Storytelling Festival of Carolina, chairs the board of the Storytelling and Arts Center of the Southeast, and is a member of the North Carolina Storytelling Guild.

      A 1995 graduate of the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School, Santa Cliff Snider also has a Doctor of Santa Claus degree from the International University of Santa Claus. His book, “Santa’s Journey” chronicles his personal story of his Santa ministry.
      Snider has been featured on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The 700 Club,” on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Society’s website and in “Guideposts” magazine. In August of 2012 he was awarded by the governor “The Order of the Long Leaf Pine,” North Carolina’s highest award for a citizen of the state for his fifty years of service to the children of North Carolina as Santa Claus. Also in 2012 he was inducted into the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame in Santa Claus, Indiana.
      Snider has been featured in over sixty paintings of Santa Claus. Through paintings, fine-art photographs and manufactured gift products, his image has become America’s most recognized Santa Claus.

      Leon Smith says he began writing stories in song in the 90's with the earliest version of Daddy Songs. In December 2015, he began offering a couple of stories per month to the now defunct Marshville Home News and in 2017 began writing a weekly column for The Anson Record.
      Smith grew up in Polkton and attended Polkton High School, then Wingate Jr. College. He left home for UNC-Chapel Hill, Clemson, and Ohio. While living at home, he raised hogs, planted pine trees, and worked at the Shirt Factory through high school and Wingate. Following graduate school, he produced TV shows in Ohio and Virginia, and from time to time taught Communications classes at Clemson-at-Greenville, Kansas, and Wingate, from which he retired in 2018.
      Smith says he has been accused of having a photographic memory. "What memory I have comes from following useful advice, such as Daddy's: 'Son if you'll listen to the other fellow, you'll know what you know and what he knows too.' I got a lot of experience in listening from him.
      "At Clemson, where I worked on Masters in English, Dr. Harriet Holman, said keep a pen and pad with you at all times, and 'be one of those people on whom nothing is lost.' I tried that too. Later, in poverty as a grad student at Ohio, the county prosecutor paid me to risk my life in those Appalachian hills spying out illegal junkyards. He said put a date on everything. I have followed his advice.
      "Writing stories and singing songs does more for memory than truth serum, and now and then brings forth a message worthy of giving away, which I pray will happen at Back Porch Stories."

      J.A. Bolton returns to reprise his role as moderator for the event.
      Bolton started telling stories at a young age "when the fellas at the local store would buy me a drink and a candy bar to tell 'em a story." He soon found that telling stories was a good way to take a break from hard work on the farm, too.
      Since then, he’s gone on to tell some pretty tall tales that include huntin’, fishin’, and workin’ on the farm. His motto is "Live, Love, Laugh.”
      Bolton is the author of "Just Passin' Time" and co-wrote "Just Passin' Time Together" with his wife, Azalea Bolton.

      Back Porch Stories is sponsored by the Anson County Writers' Club and the Anson County Tourism Development Authority.