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Storytelling 2014: “We laughed ‘til we cried”

The right kind of tears filled tents and street corners as visitors spilled into Jonesborough last week for the 42nd Annual National Storytelling Festival.
Audience members listened to a plethora of skilled tellers throughout the three-day festival, held Oct, 3-5, laughing uproariously and wiping their eyes as tears streamed down their cheeks.
It looked like another hit for the festival, and on Monday, as Executive Director Kiran Singh Sirah of the International Storytelling Center continued to pore over the numbers, success seemed a certainty.
It will take a while to arrive at a final tally, Sirah said, but “we do know that we’re up 7 percent from last year.”
That’s good news for ISC and the town.
“I had one comment from a shopkeeper who said that it was his best season he ever had,” Sirah said.
The festival featured not only tales from storytelling favorites, as well as new voices, including Bil Lepp, Carmen Deedy, Tim Lowry, Daniel Morden and John McCutcheon, but also new activities such a Story Slam and Storytelling Studio.
“I just felt that we could sort of add an extra flavor,” Sirah said.
“The feedback so far was that people really welcomed the newer elements.”
One new element, sponsored by the Niswonger Foundation, was the live streaming of the festival — an addition that could raise the numbers of individuals personally impacted by the 2014 festival.
“We live-streamed for the first time last Friday,” Sirah said of the first day of the festival. “And we encouraged high schools across the country to watch the festival. Some schools in the country had viewing parties.”
Right now, Sirah said he would estimate the total numbers for the festival to be about 11,000. Add the streaming to the outreach, and the number could go up 3,000 or more.
“People already started pre-registering for next hear,” he added. “More people this year have already pre-registered for next year.”
Of course, when it comes to the National Storytelling Festival, Sirah admits, the Town of Jonesborough itself is what really makes the difference.
“So many people talked about the building of community,” he said. “There is kind of a reinvigoration of keeping this flame of storytelling alive. And it’s a community effort. When people come here, they have a ready audience that respects the art so much. This is a very, very special place.”