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Teller honed skills on Sweet Tea Trail

Entertainment staff • Jun 11, 2014 at 9:55 AM

Tim Lowry, a South Carolina-based storyteller who specializes in American history, personal narrative, folk tales and literary classics, is bringing his one-man act to Jonesborough for a weeklong residency at the International Storytelling Center.

Lowry will perform at 2 p.m., daily, June 10-14 in the Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $11 for seniors, students and children under 18.

Lowry has spent most of his adult life in Summerville, S.C., a quintessential small town that is widely recognized as the birthplace of sweet tea.

"We're a town of Southern hospitality," he says. "It's not just a drink; it's a way of life in Summerville."

An occasional tour guide and full-time local history buff, Lowry traces the birth of sweet tea back to 1890, when a group of soldiers reuniting in Summerville ordered great quantities of ice, sugar, and tea for their gathering. It's one of the many stories he tells when he takes time out from his busy performance schedule to lead local tours.

The tourism and hospitality industry was a great training ground for the performer, who honed his storytelling skills on the sweet tea trail.

"I learned that the best tour guides are good storytellers," he says. "I got a lot of good experience doing short, sweet stories on heritage tours and bus tours and walking tours, and then I branched out into professional storytelling. Now it's come full circle, and I do a little bit of tour-guiding again."

On a recent tour in May, the town's mayor stopped by to present him with a special award.

Lowry has nursed a love for travel and local lore since he was a kid.

"I didn't like history in school," he admits. "I thought it was terribly boring — just reading the book and answering the questions at the end of the chapter. But I gained a real love for American people and our collective culture through travel. My growing-up years were in Kentucky, but all four of my grandparents lived in south Florida. In our annual treks to see the grandparents, my mom and dad took us to visit lots of battlefields and museums."

Those pit stops breathed life into all of Lowry's dusty history books, and he's been a fan of old-time Americana — from military history to Br'er Rabbit to the golden age of radio — ever since.

In addition to his matinee performances, Lowry will also host a special children's concert at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, June 14. The program will showcase folk tales from around the world, including stories about a man-eating elephant and a Russian snow queen. A longtime fan of Grimm's fairy tales, Lowry will also include a variety of traditional European folk stories.

Tickets for the Saturday morning concert are $5 for all ages, and ticket holders will receive coupons for 15 percent off at The Lollipop Shop, a popular Main Street store that sells old-fashioned sweets and toys.

The International Storytelling Center's Teller-in-Residence series brings a new storyteller to Jonesborough each week from May to October. Information about all TIR performers, as well as a detailed schedule for 2014, is available at www.storytellingcenter.net.

Storytelling Live! is supported by Presenting Sponsor CrestPoint Health, program sponsors Eastman Chemical Company and Eastman Credit Union, and media sponsors 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 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

For more information about Storytelling Live! or to make a group reservation, call (800) 952-8392 ext. 222 or (423) 913-1276. Season passes that offer savings of 44 percent are available while supplies last.

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