Everyone has a story to tell but the fourth-graders at Port St. Joe elementary put it all on the line last week to see whose yarn was the best.

Everyone has a story to tell but the fourth-graders at Port St. Joe elementary put it all on the line last week to see whose yarn was the best.

Prior to the final showdown the students had two training sessions with Panama City storyteller Pat Nease who coached the students on public speaking, voice projection and story performance.

The 12 finalists were chosen by their peers and on Friday the students brought their best stories to the stage telling tales that ranged from The Princess and the Pea to Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

The contest was hosted by Brooks Jones, Treasurer of the Coastal Community Association of Gulf County and judges included Vice President of the CCA, Ron Shaeffer, Secretary Leslie Fedota, Director Jim Anderson and Rehabilitation Manager at Sacred Heart Hospital and member of the Lions Club, Joe Santiesteban.

Superintendent of Gulf County Schools, Jim Norton, also had a seat on the judge’s panel and after hearing the children’s tales he praised them for their bravery and noted that even though it was a competition, “You’re all winners to me.”

While the judges deliberated, reading teacher, Karen Odom, dazzled the audience with a tale about Louisiana Gators.

“It really let the students shine,” said Odom as she applauded the event for helping students with reading and writing comprehension and oral presentation.

Jones then took the stage and recited the tale of the Three Billy Goats Gruff using teachers as his bridge-crossing troublemakers while he took on the role of the evil troll.

After much anticipation the judges returned with the final results.

Savannah Burkett won over the judges with her reimagined Goldilocks story which featured honeybees instead of bears and took the first-place prize.

“I was nervous,” admitted Burkett, who is allergic to bees. She recalled her first thoughts when hearing her name announced as the winner, “I can’t believe it. It must be fate.”

Second place went to Patrick Cornwell and third place to Sophie Sheller.

“Sometimes we get too caught up with testing and we forget about the importance of reading and writing skills,” said CCA President, Pat Hardman. “This is a win for everybody.”

The first-place winner took home $50 in gold coins, second place received $30 and third place $20.

Prizes were donated by the local Lion’s Club and advertising for the contest was handled by the Gulf County Tourist Development Council.

In addition to receiving prize money, winner Burkett will also have the opportunity to tell her story at the second annual Shells and Tales Cheese and Wine event.

Shells and Tales brings professional storytellers to Port St. Joe for workshops and an evening of storytelling at the Gulf Coast State College Gulf/Franklin Center.

The event takes place on March 8-9.