It’s the time of the year when story lovers, both tellers and listeners come “home” to Jonesborough, TN for the National Storytelling Festival.
Bold Whisper’s Jennifer Einolf, DTM and I will be offering The Tell It Well Intensive on Oct. 10 at Meadpwbrook Country Club in Chesterfield.
Remember: You Matter. Your Stories Matter. Tell Them Well!
The Storytellers Channel
Every year, the first full weekend in October, all eyes in the storytelling world turn to Jonesborough, TN; where this little sleepy town in the Appalachian foothills plays host to the National Storytelling Festival. Jonesborough is the home of the International Storytelling Center, the producers of the event.
You may be thinking, ‘What is the National Storytelling Festival?’ It’s where thousands of the closest friends you never knew you had come together to listen to world-class storytelling. Five tents seating anywhere from 750 to 1,000+ feature back-to-back storytelling from 10:00 in the morning til way past bedtime. Your new found friends sit cheek to jowl listening so attentively that you can hear a pin drop. Occasionally, the shows pause while a train runs by and on Sunday morning applause is replaced by finger snapping, so we don’t disturb the worship services going on in the nearby churches. Otherwise the small town ambiance is punctuated with uproarious laughter, crescendos of applause and the quiet roar of chatter between shows while attendees talk about who they’ve heard tell, who they want to hear tell and comparing this year’s crop to prior years.
Some of the attendees have been coming since the festival started in 1972.
When you’ve paid your admission you’re given a fabric swatch. They change from year to year and from day to day. You will see folks with long strings of patches safety pinned together proudly proclaiming their history of attending this cultural Mecca. As people come and go from the tents you will hear the tent hosts thanking people for “prominently displaying their swatches.” That’s their polite way of reminding people the tent hosts need to see their swatches to admit them.
The whole community pitches in particularly a meal times. Many of the churches open their doors offering affordable breakfast, lunch and dinner. Hearty soups, comfort foods like mac and cheese and fresh bread vie for attention alongside home baked cookies, cakes and pies. For those of us with fond childhood memories of church pot luck suppers its nostalgic delight. Plus you share tables with folks from far and wide. People come not just from across the U.S., but across the globe, both onstage and in the audience.
The tellers tell offer a wide variety. Personal stories, tall tales, fairy tales, stories from literature and history, and current events. Olios let you taste several tellers in one show. Those are offset by hour long stories by a single teller. The content is always family friendly, but not all shows will keep small children’s attention. This is storytelling for grown-ups.
This year the Festival’s website features rotating pics of Bil Lepp and Sheila Arnold. Both of whom have been featured headliners at Storytellers Channel’s Heart Afire Storytelling Festival here in Richmond. I’m so proud to see Sheila sharing the honor with Bil this year as the Faces of the Festival. Sheila was the first person to welcome me to the Virginia Storytelling Alliance (VASA), She’s the past Vice President of the Board and encouraged me to serve as President. She’s an amazing teller as are all of the tellers featured at the festival.
Another VASA member, Lynn Ruehlmann, will be featured at the Exchange Place this year. Bil Lepp, and Andy Offutt Irwin, both of whom have performed in RVA for Storytellers Channel, will also be telling and and Tim Lowry will be Emceeing.
Marie and I will be tent hosts at the Creekside Tent for the 4th time this year, so if you make it, look us up.
I’d love to meet you face-to-face.
I Want to Hear from You
Check out the festival website, I think they’ll be streaming some of the storytellers on Friday.
Til next time,