David Benning loves to tell stories. In fact, he has become a sensation over the past year or so, performing at the Kentucky State Fair, annual Kingdom Come Swappin’ Meetin’ and numerous other venues.
His notoriety, however, entered a new level earlier this week when he was notified of being named a Kentucky Storytelling Association winner, qualifying him to advance to the National Youth Storytelling Showcase in Orem, Utah, Feb. 6-9, as part of the Timpanogos Storytelling Midwinter event.
Between now and early January, Benning must raise money to cover the required travel expenses for the national competition which has only 10 contestants nationwide.
Rosspoint Elementary School Principal Bryan Howard said the students and staff at his school are excited about his state honor, noting he will be representing the school, school district, the county and the state in Utah.
“He is very passionate at what he does,” said Howard. “He is a very bright young man and very pleasant to be around. He is a great student, outstanding in academics, and any time I talk with him it is positive communication.”
“This not only puts Rosspoint on the map, but all of Harlan County,” said Howard. “We have a lot of very successful people coming out of our school system.”
Benning, 11, is the son of Brent and Jami Benning, of Baxter, and a seventh-grader, having been advanced a grade for his accelerated academic ability.
His winning performance came from the Appalachian folk tale of “Old Dry Frye,” the story of a preacher eating chicken and getting choked on a bone. The preacher eventually dies, but all the people he sought help from thought they had killed him.
Storytelling since he was 6, he has been named a Kentucky Youth Storytelling Torchbearer by the Kentucky Storytelling Association five times.
Benning was a finalist for the national event, along with his uncle, Jacob Craiger, in a tandem Appalachian tale “Soap, Soap, Soap” in 2010.
His mother noted that David and his dad used to act out Bible stories, contributing to his interest in storytelling. At the age of 6, he went to the Swappin’ Meetin’ and acted out the story of David and Goliath. He ended up winning first place.
He said it “means a lot” to him to be able to attend the national event. “I’ve never been west of the Mississippi River and I get to tell stories out there…. There will also be workshops and I can meet kids from all over the country.”
In addition to telling stories, he likes to build models with his K-nex sets. He also is involved with the puppet ministry at the Riverside Church of God Mountain Assembly in Williamsburg.
He is the grandson of Jimmy and Linda Craiger, of Partridge.
Anyone interested in helping Benning achieve his goal of attending the national event, may send tax deductible donations to:
Rosspoint Elementary School PTO
Attn: Cindy Gaw/NYSS
132 Highway 522
Baxter, KY 40806
“We are proud of him and certainly hope those in the area who can will reach out and help him obtain the funds to reach this goal,” said Howard.