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It’s back! Storytelling season’s opening act is Willy Claflin

Willy Claflin, a longtime star of the annual National Storytelling Festival, will be the 2019 storytelling season’s first teller in resident.


After a quiet winter in Jonesborough, the International Storytelling Center is throwing open its doors to welcome visitors for a fresh new season of stories.

The organization, which serves as the seat of the storytelling capital of the world, will host more than two dozen world-class performers through the end of October. Each artist will enjoy a weeklong stay in Jonesborough, offering matinee concerts to the public five days a week.

Willy Claflin, a longtime star of the annual National Storytelling Festival, will be the 2019 storytelling season’s first teller in resident. The eclectic teller is a master of many different forms, including gut-busting tall tales, haunting Old World ballads, and Scandinavian folk tales.

Claflin is perhaps best known for his family stories, which frequently feature his beloved character Maynard Moose. The furry brown puppet, which was originally a gift from a neighbor, is the star of the industry veteran’s signature stories.

“The moose kind of has his own magic,” the storyteller said. “Sometimes I find myself thinking about him as though he’s a real person.”

Claflin’s stories are packed with jokes and sophisticated wordplay, but they also have a clever way of turning child’s play into art. “When I was a kid, all my stuffed animals had adventures. I made them all talk,” he said. “In a way, I’m still doing very much what I did when I was seven years old. It’s really strange, but I feel lucky.”

Tickets for Claflin’s concerts are just $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students, and anyone under 18. While supplies last, season passes are available with a steep discount off the retail price of regular admission.

Exclusive discounts are available to all ticketholders, who can present their ticket stubs for a 10 percent discount on same-day dining at Main Street Café (lunch only), Olde Towne Pancake House, Texas Burritos & More, Krazy Krepes, Jonesborough Barrel House, The Icing on the Cake (lunch only), and the Corner Cup. You can also save 10 percent on prepared meals and five percent off any other store purchases at Boone Street market.

Claflin’s appearance is part of ISC’s popular Storytelling Live! series, a program designed to make live storytelling more accessible to the region. Throughout the season, matinees run Tuesday through Saturday, with exclusive evening concerts, children’s shows, and workshops also scattered throughout. Claflin’s residency will run from April 30 – May 4, and all ticket sales are first come, first served. Reservations are strongly recommended.

Claflin will be followed by 25 of the nation’s top storytellers, including Barbara McBride-Smith, Bill Harley, and Rev. Robert B. Jones.

The premier sponsor of Storytelling Live! is Ballad Health. Additional program funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Niswonger Foundation, Eastman Credit Union, the Mooneyhan Family Foundation, and Food City. Media sponsors include News 5-WCYB, FOX Tri-Cities, Tri-Cities CW, Johnson City Press, Kingsport Times-News, Herald & Tribune, and Cumulus Media.

The International Storytelling Center is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information about Storytelling Live!, including the full 2019 line-up, or to purchase tickets and season passes, visit or call (800) 952-8392.