A group of liars is meeting at the Orem City Council. And they’re proud of it.
The Timpanogos Storytelling Institute will hold the fifth annual “Utah’s Biggest Liar Contest” in Orem this year, where contestants will tell tales, whoppers and big fish stories to impress the audience with their ability to humorously deceive.
Participants are scored on technique, story development, originality and effectiveness. The contest features a separate division for children and adults, and requires the stories to be three to six minutes in length.
Utah’s Biggest Liar Contest was started by April Johnson, a member of the Utah Storytelling Guild. Johnson was inspired by lying contests in West Virginia and Texas. The winner of each division receives the coveted Golden Shovel Award, signed by Bil Lepp. Lepp has won the West Virginia Liars contest five times and just happens to be a minister and storytelling teacher. The winners also get the opportunity to perform their pieces at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. This annual festival is in its 23rd year, and is the biggest of its kind in the world.
“Teachers tell stories, lawyers tell stories,” Johnson said. “It’s interesting for people to come to these events because it makes them realize the different forms storytelling takes.”
George McEwan, last year’s adult contest winner and local resident, will be back to defend his title. McEwan is a member of Utah’s Storytelling Guild and has also been involved with the Weber State Storytelling Festival. When writing his material McEwan is inspired by true-life events, something that is unique to each individual person.
“It’s a chance for people to cut loose,” McEwan said. “It lets amateurs who haven’t been paid come up and compete.”
Caleb Johnson, now 11, won the youth portion of the competition in 2010. The youth division includes children up to age 17. Johnson describes his winning story as being “a fortunately unfortunate” tale of trying not to get in trouble because of a late library book.
“It’s fun, but I get nervous,” Johnson said. “Especially when you’re in front of a group of storytelling people.”
Judges of the event include comedian Rodney B, Ginger Parkinson from the Storytelling Guild and Kimberly Lohner from the Storytelling Institute. Howard Tayler, an LDS cartoonist and a highly successful web comic, will return as a celebrity emcee.
Janet Low, an Orem librarian, thinks positively of the contest because of the awareness it brings to storytelling, an art form that is slowly being lost. The event has gained a lot of popularity over the years, growing so rapidly it has had to change venues each year.
“The library is all about story, in all of its forms,” Low said. “It’s a natural partnership from our point of view to allow the community to come together and share stories. That’s the mission of the library.”
Utah’s Biggest Liar Contest will take place Monday night at the Orem City Council Chamber. Youth competition starts at 6 p.m. and adult competition starts at 7 p.m