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Storytelling Festival celebrates 40 years

The National Storytelling Festival will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year, bringing to town more than two dozen tellers from all corners of the world.
It will also include a number of new events, as the festival’s organizers make plans to truly celebrate the milestone year.
“We’ve had an amazing response,” said Susan O’Connor, director of programs at the International Storytelling Center. “We’ve had a great pre-registration that is ahead of last year. Our audiences are so loyal. The average attendee has come seven times. They just come again and again and again.”
Alluding to the ISC’s recent emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, O’Connor said this festival is “especially important to us with some of the changes we’ve undergone.”
In order underscore that importance, the festival will really be kicking up its heels, complete with a half dozen new features to make the event even more spectacular.
Two preview storytelling concerts are being planned as well as a Story Slam. There will be listening stations, a film, and a wine and beer garden.
“Anytime you have a milestone, it is significant and a time to recognize what you’ve accomplished,” O’Connor said. “We’re the oldest storytelling festival in the country, and this is a time to honor the years before and some of the iconic storytellers who made us who we are.”
One of those storytellers, perennial favorite Donald Davis, will present a pre-festival concert, “Cripple Joe,” on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.
Davis draws his stories from his life in Southern Appalachia where he was surrounded by a family of traditional storytellers telling him fairytales, simple and silly Jack Tales and more.The festival will also feature a new talent this year – Jeanne Robertson.
Robertson, a nationally renowned humorist, will perform a pre-festival anniversary concert on Thursday, Oct. 4, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20.
The former Miss North Carolina 1968 has no trouble spinning tall tales. She has been featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes, has performed at the White House and can be heard daily in Sirius XM Radio’s Laugh USA.
Once the event is in full swing, visitors can enjoy the festival’s first story slam competition — a craze that’s been sweeping the nation.
Pre-qualified contestants, 18 years or older, will go head-to-head in the contest, telling a 5-minute original story based on the theme, Rear View Mirror.
The Story Slam will be held on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at the Creekside Tent and is included as part of the festival event ticket.
Tellers will be judged on their performance, how well the story is crafted and its connection to the theme, as well as adherence to the 5-minute time limit.
Prizes to be awarded are $300 for first place; $200 for second place; and a $50 gift certificate for storytelling merchandise for third place.
Also for the first time this year, on Friday and Saturday evenings from 4-8 p.m., visitors can purchase a glass of regional wine or beer from the International Storytelling Center’s Wine Garden, located on the plaza in front of the center.
Also new to the festival this year will be the inclusion of listening stations set up at the entrance of the Krispy Kreme Storytelling Theatre in the Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall.
Festival attendees can stop by and listen to story clips from iconic tellers including Jackie Torrance, Kathryn Windham, Brother Blue, Marshall Dodge, Ray Hicks, Doc McConnell, J.J. Reneaux and Mary Carter Smith.
The Listening Stations are produced by the Computer and Information Services Department of East Tennessee State University.
Attendees can also view a new film of archival material put together by the Library of Congress
For tickets or more information, call the ISC at 913-1276.