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Northville launches StoryVille - Holiday stories that warm the heart on cold winter days & nights

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Imagine huddling around a lit storefront in downtown Northville with family and friends or just one special person, listening to a holiday story, recorded in vivid vocals over a musical score, that lifts the story from the pages into your mind and heart – full of wonder, suspense, tears, and laughter. While you listen to the story, you also gaze at the store window, which is simply or elaborately decorated in the style of the book to enhance the experience.

StoryVille - taped recordings of holiday stories by local celebrities and civic leaders – comes to downtown Northville the weekend of Nov. 18 with a kick-off ceremony at noon in Town Square. It’s the opening day of the Greens Market and the day after the Holiday Lighted Parade. William Demray, DDS; Chuck Gaidica; Lisa Barry and Santa will emcee the event, officially opening the book on the holiday stories. Overhead speakers will broadcast soundbites from the stories along with a blooper reel for a jolly good laugh.

The concept was first introduced in New York and spread to Chicago, but this chapter will be uniquely Northville. Local readers – including Fire Chief Steve Ott, local NPR host Lisa Barry and TV personality Chuck Gaidica – have made the stories their own – with unique sound effects and voice inflections. (See the complete list of merchants, readers and stories at the end of this article). Stories range from three to eight minutes. The event runs though the last week of December.

Denise Jenkins, who works in community outreach for Preservation Dental, brought the concept to Northville. A former broadcaster, Jenkins was enamored by the Christmas stories read at the 5th Avenue stores in New York City and longed to replicate the experience here.

This past summer, while lounging at a friend’s pool, Jenkins marveled at the tiny speaker on a table that was amplifying music wirelessly from the house about 100 feet away. The speaker was controlled by an iPhone. She had an “ah-ha” moment: this 2-inch cube could amplify the taped stories by fastening it to a building’s awning or tucking it under an eave and connecting it to a wireless device inside the building.

“It’s ironic that it was an electronic device that made me think this creative storytelling idea would go together,” Jenkins said. As a bonus, the speaker can also be activated by an individual’s wireless device – whether a cell phone, laptop or tablet.

The next step was finding people willing to read the stories and merchants willing to participate. That part snowballed. Once word got out through the Northville Central Business Association (NCBA), 24 merchants ultimately signed on. Their primary cost is producing the window decorations; some are getting creative help from local artists. ACT Wireless donated 50 speakers because it wants people to have a voice in their community.

Preservation Dental is a contributing sponsor that paid for costs associated with the soundtrack, which was recorded in a makeshift studio at Tipping Point Theatre. Jenkins and fellow staffer Aimée Crosby coordinated, taped and produced all the recordings.

“When I heard some of the stories later in my office, I thought, I’m just going to get my pillow and blanket and lay down and listen,” Jenkins said.

“I think the kids are really going to enjoy it,” she said. “It encourages families to come downtown and do something together. The event expands on the enjoyment of reading and brings creativity to the community. Plus, it’s been a fantastic community reach out.”

Dan Ferrara, co-owner of Northville Gallery, made sure all the locations in town were set up properly with speakers connected to their own wireless devices. He will enlist a panel of judges to evaluate store window decorations and award a unique Santa trophy for the first-place winner with a nod to second and third place winners.

Other contributing sponsors are NCBA, Northville Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). My Little Paris Café and Bookstore ordered all of the holiday books so people can purchase their favorites right downtown. The Northville District Library also has copies of most books.

 StoryVille Participating Merchants and Professionals

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