“Lore, Legend, and Laughter”

McCook, Nebraska

May 31 - June 2, 2018

Prepare for a whole lot 'a stories, music, and fun at the 23rd Annual Buffalo Commons Storytelling and Music Festival May 31 - June 2, 2019 in McCook, Nebraska. Events will include a bus adventure, dinner cabaret, stage show, museum concert, garden party, local stories and songs, open mic opportunities, children's story theatre and much, much more.

The festival strives to provide experience-based learning by combining super venues, outstanding artists, and enthusiastic hosts to invite audiences of all ages and ethnic backgrounds into a celebration of rural community. The artists not only entertain, they model, teach, and inspire. This year’s guest artists, include: Bil Lepp -- nationally acclaimed storyteller, author and recording artist; Zoe Lewis -- English folk musician; Roxanne Layton -- Manheim Steamroller percussionist and recorder. Rounding out the talented trio of musicians will be Kate Wolf on the bass Guitar. Chuck Peek -- 2016 Nebraska Book Award Winner, historian, author, poet will return to his "hometown" once again to entertain us.

A festival favorite event, the Buffalo Commons History's Mystery Bus Tour will explore the incredible Red Willow Dam. “The Watering Hole-A Look at our Natural Resources – Past, Present, and Future” will feature a tour the Red Willow Dam as participants hear of its history and repair, visit with a conservation officer and hear and see how bison are being reintroduced into the area, what happened to them way back when, and their importance today. Lunch is provided at the Lighthouse Marina. The day will begin at 9 am in Tipton Hall Weeth Theatre on the McCook Community College Campus where the tour will end at 3 pm.  Cost of the tour is $39 per person (this includes lunch). To register, call 308-345-8122.

Featured Guest Artists and Presenters


Bil lepp - storyteller

Get ready to laugh when the most widely acclaimed tall tale artist in the nation takes the stage. Bil Lepp has been called "the Wonder Bra of storytelling. He takes something small and insignificant and pushes it up into something really BIG. . ." Growing up in a family where the truth was fluid, Bil Lepp became adept at spinning tales and exaggerating circumstances at an early age. A nationally renowned storyteller and five-time champion of the West Virginia Liars’ Contest, Bil’s outrageous, humorous tall-tales and witty stories have earned the appreciation of listeners of all ages and from all walks of life. Though a champion liar, his stories often contain morsels of truth which shed light on universal themes. Be it a hunting trip, a funeral, or a visit to the dentist, Bil can find the humor in any situation. Lepp explains that while his stories may not be completely true, they are always honest.

A storyteller, author, and recording artist, Lepp’s works have received awards and recognition from The Parents’ Choice Foundation, The National Parenting Publications Assoc., and the Public Library Assoc. In 2011, Bil was awarded the National Storytelling Network’s Circle of Excellence Award. Lepp has been featured 15 times at the National Storytelling Festival, and performed at major storytelling festivals, at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and at corporate events and functions across the country. He performed at Comedy Central’s Stage on Hudson in Los Angeles, CA. Bil comes to us from Charleston, WV.


zoe lewis - musical feature

Originally from England, Zoe Lewis now resides in Provincetown on Cape Cod, MA where she performs every summer. Her music is upbeat, amusing and perfect for young and old alike. She's traveled around the globe to over 70 countries, picking up world-beat grooves and stories on the way; jumping box cars, riding on freight boats and has even played music with an elephant orchestra in Thailand. "Her fast-paced lyrics poke fun at modern society and praise the rambling delights of childhood, secret worlds, and wandering love". She has performed across the USA, Europe, Australia, Canada and works for OLIVIA cruises.

Zoe is a band in a body! She plays jazz, jump jive, Latin grooves, swing, international folk, funk originals on anything from the piano to the spoons! Troubadour, vaudevillian, storyteller, adventurer, singer-songwriter and winner of the Colorado Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Troubadour Award in 2003, New York Folk Winner 2002 at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas and 2001 Falconridge Folk Festival Audience Favorite.

 In 2011, Zoe penned her first piece of musical theatre with Snail Road, a valentine to Provincetown about bicycles, dreams and true love. It was such a huge success that she produced her second musical "Across the Pond." Both were directed by Broadway’s Donna Drake from the original cast of Chorus Line. Zoe also runs a 1920's Speakeasy evening all summer long which takes the audience back in time to the golden age of the flapper. It's community theatre at its very best. In 2013, she was voted Provincetown Woman of the Year.

 Photo credits: Kerri Garrison Photography

Photo credits: Kerri Garrison Photography

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roxanne layton - percussionist

Roxanne Layton started playing the recorder at age six. She attended the Center for Creative Arts High School in New Orleans after which she reinvented herself as a jazz drummer. Roxanne graduated The New England Conservatory for Music in Boston and became a test player for the top recorder makers in the country, Von Hune Workshop. While working there, she struck a conversation with one of the musicians from Manheim Steamroller and long story, short, she became a member of the band traveling part of the year with Manheim Steamroller as their recorder and percussionist. She’s played for both the Clinton and Bush administrations, has been on the Today Show, the Tonight Show, Barbara Walters, and the View. When she isn’t traveling with MSR, she plays gigs with Zoe and various other bands.  

Dr. Charles Peek - Poet

The wealth of talent, experience, and expertise
Dr. Charles Peek brings to Buffalo Commons is beyond measure.  Storyteller, author, historian, poet, and raconteur, Chuck returns to his hometown to join historian Jeff Barnes and local writer-historian Walt Sehnert to moderate community stories themed “Back in Time, Forward in Anticipation” at the High Plains Museum. He and Naugel will also lead a “Storytelling Savvy” learning opportunity at McCook Community College Friday afternoon. Chuck will present poetry programs Thursday and Friday evenings at the Bieroc and lead the Poetry Slam on Saturday afternoon. Chuck also meets with committee members months prior to the festival to share expertise from his service in many organizations, including the Cather Foundation.


Ginger tenBensel - storyteller

TV News Reporter, Cowgirl, Singer/Songwriter, Storyteller through music Ginger tenBensel raised on a Southwest Nebraska farm, entrusted with not only helping with the family business, but also tending to eight or more horses a day. That work ethic carried her on to pursue her dream in Nashville, Tennessee as a singer/songwriter. She opened for several stars including Chuck Berry and Clint Black and performed at the National Western Stock Show, the College World Series and at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. Her ability to entertain also allowed her to host her own TV shows in the South, then transition into being a TV news reporter for 14 years in Hastings, Nebraska. So whether it’s in a music studio, with a news camera in hand, or writing songs while riding horseback, Ginger has a knack for telling stories, no matter what the subject.


Kate wolf - bass guitar

Kate Wolf met Zoe Lewis years ago, liked her tunes and joined her band. She started performing on an unusual bass guitar made of cardboard, a steel neck and a pick up made from a sewing machine bobbin. She stunned audiences with her dexterity on this instrument but she prefers to perform on her more conventional four-string Reverend bass. She is well-known for her uncanny ability to “bleat like a sheep in distress,” which is what makes her a vibrant member of the Zoe Lewis band.

 23rd Annual Buffalo Commons Schedule 


Friday, May 31st, 2019


History’s Mysteries Bus Tour: “The Watering Hole—A Look at Our Natural Resources—Past, Present and Future”
$39 per person (includes lunch) 
Reservations required. For tickets call 308-345-8122.

9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.




Music and Storytelling Dinner Cabaret
Zoe Lewis, Roxanne Layton, Kate Wolf; Bil Lepp, Chuck Peek
Reservations required. For information call 308-345-6500.

6:00 p.m.    


Saturday, June 1, 2019


Meet & Greet

"Home on the Prairie" Open Mic Homesteader Stories
 Led by Angus Garey and Don Klein


8:45 a.m.

9:00 a.m.


"Tall Tales and Other Fish Stories"
Master Storyteller Bil Lepp

10:30 a.m.

"Vaudeville Extravaganza"
Zoe Lewis, Roxanne Layton, Kate Wolf


11:15 a.m. 



"The Great Outdoors" - Community Stories
(Stories must be audience appropriate and no longer than 5 min.)

12:30 p.m.

Poetry Party with Poet Chuck Peek & Paul Clark

1:30 p.m.



Spectacular Storytelling Event for Pre-Schoolers and Elementary Students
"Hilarity and Hyperbole for the Hippest Kids!"

Master Storyteller Bil Lepp

1:00-2:00 p.m.



“Meet Senator and Ellie Norris”  Norris Home
Clark and Dawna Bates

2:00-3:00 p.m.



“How the West Has Fun” Grand Finale Stage Show
Bil Lepp, Zoe Lewis, Roxanne Layton, Kate Wolf
Admission: Adults $15, Students $5
Tickets can be purchased from MNB, Sehnert's Bakery & Bieroc Cafe (308)345-6500, McCook Chamber (308)345-3200 and at the Door.

7:30 PM




9:30 p.m.


Sunday, June 2, 2019


Heritage Cemetery Tour
Sponsored by: McCook Chamber of Commerce, SOuthwest Genealogy Society and Southwest Nebraska Community Theater

2:00-4:00 p.m.