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Festival: Event closes with good memories, solid numbers

Another successful Storytelling Festival closed this week, complete with blue skies and stunning sunsets.


Staff Writer

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This year’s edition of the National Storytelling Fe

stival wrapped up Sunday, highlighted by blistering temperatures, over 10,000 visitors and a diverse group of tellers to dazzle the crowds.

“The atmosphere was fantastic. The energy was just beautiful. Wonderful.” International Storytelling Center President Kiran Singh Sirah said. “To be able to spread this message of good will, peace, understanding and a celebration of our humanity, that’s what this festival really sums up for me.”

From Friday through Sunday, over 10,000 folks criss-crossed Jonesborough to hear stories filled with laughter, love, awe or in the case of Bil Lepp, a humorous story about the running of the bulls.

While the 18 featured storytellers were the main attraction over the weekend, Sirah believed the concert on Thursday night set the tone for the festival.

“We had a really exciting Black Lillies concert on Thursday night and I think that did a lot to really bring both our traditional audiences, our regulars, as well as lots of younger people to come and celebrate, to dance and really enjoy themselves and have a real nice celebratory kickoff to the festival.”

Sirah added that many visitors arrived before the festival began.

“It was great to see lots of people coming in earlier, and just enjoying the whole festival build-up. People, when they come in earlier, they like to come in and they go for hikes, or they go eat at the restaurants, or they like to experience our trails, and our walks and our pubs and all the things that East Tennessee has to offer. Especially in these mountains, and then they come for the Storytelling.”

Among the tellers present were familiar faces such as Donald Davis, Connie Regan-Blake and the aforementioned Lepp.

Visitors to the festival were invited to tell their own tales over the weekend at the Swappin Grounds or on one of the bright yellow Story Stages spread across town.

While all the tellers were able to showcase their talents to the crowds, one of the stars, as always, was the town — and the town residents themselves.

The ISC president said he has heard many times how Jonesborough and its residents provide such a warm welcome to festival attendees.

“One thing I always hear people say is that they never get a better welcome than when they come in and see the people of Jonesborough just open up this town and welcome people in. This is one of the most inclusive places I’ve ever been in the world because we welcome people from all over the world.

“One of the beautiful things about this festival is that there are so many opportunities to make friends and connect with the community.” 

The National Storytelling Festival begun in 1973 by Jimmy Neil Smith was quite a different event.

According to the festival press release, only “a few dozen people gathered on hay bales around a wagon”.

The 2018 edition welcomed over 10,000 visitors, while nearly 3,000 listened in on the Festival’s livestream on Friday.