~ By Lisa Maria Boyles, communications specialist for the College of Arts and Humanities

It was 9:15 a.m. – just enough time for a last-minute potty break before performances began 15 minutes later in the Wahlberg Recital Hall.

As 19 students from Neutra Elementary School in Lemoore tromped toward the restrooms down the hall of the Music Building at Fresno State, third-graders Sam Borror and Keese Shamblee captured the children’s excitement at being on a university campus:

“We’re college kids! We’re college kids,” the boys yelled excitedly.

When asked if they were nervous about their impending performance of “Chicks and Salsa,” a children’s story by Aaron Reynolds, the boys couldn’t agree – one solemnly said yes, while the other shook his head no.

The Peach Blossom Festival of Oral Interpretation at Fresno State, in its 59th year, took place Thursday, March 9, and 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday, March 10. 

About 4,300 youth participants from 141 schools across the Central Valley — from Tulare County to the south and Merced County to the north — perform poems and literature that they have memorized in competitions taking place throughout the campus. Participants are in grades 1 through 6.

The festival, presented by Fresno State’s Department of Communication, is designed to help young people realize the importance of reading literature aloud as well as to teach them about interpretation, performance and being an audience member. Fresno State students in the Communication department organize and direct the festival.

“A festival like this is beneficial on many levels,” said Marcie Lierly, director of this year’s Peach Blossom Festival. “Research shows one of the most crippling fears adults have is the fear of public speaking, yet it’s required in various forms at different points in our lives. If we can build a good memory around public speaking and performance at a young age, the child is less likely to fear the concept of public speaking as they grow. They might even seek out opportunities to build on these skills, increasing their confidence in what otherwise might be unconformable situations.”

Students compete in the following categories: solo, duo, trio, small group (4 to 9 children) and large group (10 to 35 children) .

The event also provides participants the opportunity to experience University life on campus. The students will also get to meet several student athletes, from men’s and women’s sports teams, as well as Bulldog mascot Timeout.

“The festival provides an opportunity for our college to host performers, families and teachers, and to connect with alumni who return to campus and serve as judges,” said Communication Department Chair Douglas Fraleigh. “Students in many of our classes are Peach Blossom alumni, and we have current participants whose parents (and even grandparents) spoke at Peach Blossom themselves.”

INFO: Chelby Cheek, publicity coordinator, at donner937@mail.fresnostate.edu or by calling 559.278.4419.