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Laughing their tales off

With his first National Storytelling Festival under his belt, the International Storytelling Center’s new executive director Kiran Singh Sirah says he is “exhausted, but thrilled.”
“The festival was absolutely amazing,” he said. “It is remarkable how diverse the tellers were and the atmosphere was just electric.”
The weather cooperated for the event, too, with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80s during the three-day festival held Oct. 4-6.
That certainly didn’t hurt attendance, Sirah said, estimating the crowd for the 41st annual event at somewhere between 11,000 to 12,000 people ­— about the same or perhaps a bit more than last year.
“We’re really happy with attendance and people are already booking for next year,” Sirah said, noting that the official number could go even higher as the crowd count has yet to be completed.
“People told me it was the best festival they had ever attended and they especially loved the New Voices,” he added. “The credit for that certainly goes to the ISC team and to the Town of Jonesborough, as well as the more than 400 volunteers who are such a big part of what we do. They are the heartbeat of the organization.”
The festival featured both repeat performers as well as several new tellers, including the Rev. Robert Jones, a Detroit, Mich. pastor, who shared a variety of stories including one about the history of American music; Kentucky native Tim Lowry, who tickled the crowd’s funny bones with his story about adventures as a carriage driver in Charleston, S.C.; and others including Diane Edgecomb and Geraldine Buckley.
New International Voice, Shonaleigh, of Great Britain, even involved fellow Brit, Sirah, who is a native of Scotland, pulling him up on stage to perform some beat boxing alongside her.
Veteran tellers Donald Davis, Bil Lepp and Sheila Kay Adams drew large crowds, and history buffs enjoyed Syd Lieberman’s story about Gettysburg.
While some visitors roamed from tent to tent, others preferred to stay put, finding a seat in one tent and listening to the various tellers who rotated in and out.
In addition to the stories, music also filled the air in Jonesborough during the festival as more and more tellers incorporated instruments and song into their presentations.
Sirah said he was also pleased to see so much participation from local school groups and churches.
“This was such a beautiful collaborative effort and it is so beautiful to see that,” Sirah added. “When people come here, they make new friends as well as rekindling friendships from the past. I feel very honored to be part of the community.”