Professional storyteller Pati Kachel will share family stories, songs, laughter and maybe a few tears during her presentation of "Ya Sure, I'm A Norvegin Luteran" at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 11, at Shalom Baptist Church in Hutchinson. Admission is free and the public is welcome.
Kachel's program will follow the Sons of Norway annual Torsk and Meatball dinner. The dinner is $15, but the program is free. (See sidebar for more information.)
"I am thankful I had a grandmother who was full of stories," Kachel said. "She was a wonderful storyteller. She told us what it was like to grow up as one of 11 children on a small farm near Paynesville. The stories she told were wonderful."
While Grandma is long gone, her stories live on through her granddaughter.
Saturday's presentation will feature mostly true stories about Kachel's immigrant forefathers who came to the United States to carve out a new life in Minnesota.
"My grandmother documented the family history," Kachel said. "She wrote down the stories she told us. I'm drawing from her gift of stories to build this story. It's not just history, it's about the traditions of our family. We're proud of our heritage and we laugh at ourselves. They never forgot where they came from."
Kachel has been a storyteller for most of her life. For many years, she juggled her vocation — graphic arts designer — with her avocation.
"One paid my bills and the other gave me joy," she said.
In 2009, she found herself "burning the candle at both ends" and the result was a serious illness.
"It stopped my whole life," she said. "I had emergency surgery, treatment and recovery."
During her convalescence, Kachel evaluated her life. This period of reflection coincided with the return of her friends Todd and Trudy Christianson, who were returning from a mission trip.
They encouraged her to get well and to become a full-time storyteller.
"It was a carrot to get me well," she said. "I'm so thankful I had friends who told me I had to do this."
Kachel and the Christiansons went on to form The Parable Fund, a nonprofit charity with the mission of educating, encouraging, enriching and entertaining listening audiences through presentations and storytelling programs.
The collaboration has worked because Kachel recently celebrated five years of full-time storytellling.
In addition to her program about Norwegian Lutherans, Kachel offers more than 35 different programs ranging from portraits of inspiring Christian women such as Mother Teresa and Ruth Bell Graham to seasonal stories such as "Move Over, Martha Stewart" and "Irish Tales and Other Blarney."
"I write all my own material," she said. "It's a creative process for me. I mix it up. I try to have a variety of spoken word, songs. A lot of my programs are memories and reminiscences and as universal as possible. When Garrison Keillor tells a story, I'm laughing because he's describing my relatives. I want to amuse, educate and entertain people."
Kachel estimated she spends about 40 percent of her time marketing her storytelling services. She pitches her programs to school principals, pastors and women's organizations.
"A lot of times people will call me," she said. "It's my audience that promotes me. 'Have her come, she's good.' They have me come back and back again and again."
The rest of Kachel's time is spent performing. Her primary market area is Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. However, friendships have taken her to Seattle and Pittsburgh, too.
Saturday's program won't be Kachel's first visit to Hutchinson. She has performed at Heirloom Tea Room and Special Occasions and this past Christmas, she was the featured speaker at Shalom Baptist Church's women's candlelight dinner.
Kachel likes to end her programs by encouraging the audience to share their own stories.
"Each of you have a wealth of memories to share," she said. "If I can keep you engaged and entertained, you can do that, too. Remember your stories and share your stories."