They came together to see who could tell the tallest tale.

They came together to see who could tell the tallest tale.

Fourth-grade students at Port St. Joe Elementary School spent a week working with Panama City storyteller Pat Nease on story structure, public speaking, voice projection and performance.

In anticipation of the annual storytelling competition, Nease also had them watch videos of some of the best storytellers around, prepping them to tell the best, most animated story possible.

Each student perfected their storytelling chops and shared them with their peers before 10 finalists were chosen to perform their stories for classmates, parents and a panel of judges.

During the competition, held last week, students were allowed to use an existing story or create and perform an original.

Some students regaled the audience with age-old tales like Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Hansel and Gretel while others took advantage of the opportunity to perform something unique.

 “For students to stand before their peers and tell a story, it’s a wonderful thing,” said Nease. “It’s empowering.”

After the yarns were spun and judges deliberated, first place went to Chasity Finch, second place to Eliana Burkett and third place to Halston Fulk.

Honorable mentions were awarded to Ne’shon Gadson, Paloma Burgos-Harris, Donovan Miniat, Ava Ryan, Zoe Gerlach, Emily Lacour, Rylee Rutherford, Kyra Allen and Mimi Larry.

While the judges were off comparing scores and determining a winner, Nease involved students in a rap version of The Three Billy Goats Gruff and told a scary story about a cabin in the remote woods of Tennessee, even sharing her secrets on how to best tell a scary story.

Nease also congratulated those students who came up with original stories and explained that by using existing tales and putting a modern spin on them, students could easily create something fresh.

To Nease, a former educator, stories are an important tool in any teacher’s toolbox.

“Storytelling is the most power tool that teachers have,” said Nease. “Stories are easy to remember.”

Judges for the event included Jim Anderson, Bill McGee, Ron Shaeffer, Belina Beehash and Coastal Community Association president Pat Hardman.

“The children were fabulous,” said Hardman. “They did a marvelous job of writing stories.

“It’s an incredible learning experience for them.”

The winners of the competition received a treasure chest full of gold coins and Finch will tell her story at the next Lions Club meeting and then again at the annual Shells and Tales event on Feb. 28 and March 3 at Gulf Coast State College Gulf/Franklin Center

The storytelling event was sponsored by the CCA and Port St. Joe Lions Club, and organized by CCA treasurer Brooks Jones.

 “I always encourage parents to talk to their children,” said Nease. “Tell your stories now, because when you’re gone, your stories are gone with you.”