In 1973, 60 people came to hear a few Appalachian tales from the back of a hay wagon parked beside the Jonesborough courthouse.
In the decades since, the National Storytelling Festival’s audience has swelled into the thousands, the hay wagon has been replaced by large, circus-like tents raised throughout the town, and those first mountain tales are now supplemented with stories from around the globe, spiced with the flair of poetry, blues, ballads and banjo.
The festival will celebrate its 41st anniversary Oct. 4-6 in Jonesborough, bringing a world of stories to this small, historic town.
Produced by the International Storytelling Center, the three-day outdoor festival will feature performances by nearly two dozen storytellers from audience favorites Donald Davis, Bil Lepp and Sheila Kay Adams to new voices Geraldine Buckley, Diane Edgecomb and Shonaleigh —who represent a wide variety of traditions, including folk tales,personal narratives and ancient legends from across the world.
Donald David will kick things off Oct. 2 with a pre-festival evening concert of heirloom stories passed down the family tree beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the Library Tent on the festival grounds. Tickets are $15 for all ages. A separate ticket is also required for the annual pre-festival Thursday night concert, this year featuring noted bluegrass musician and teller Tim O’Brien and Nora Jane Struthers and the Party Line, who will perform at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 3 in the Library Trent. Tickets are $20 for all ages.
The festival’s regular storytelling concerts, which are held rain or shine under big-top tents scattered across town, begin at 10 a.m., Oct. 4 and continue until 4:30 p.m., Oct. 6. Daily hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sunday.
Festival goers can choose from several combinations of weekend, single-day and special event tickets. Pre-registration is closed, but beginning Oct. 3, tickets will be available for purchase at Festival Registration, located in the Jonesborough Visitors Center.
Regular admission tickets include admittance to the Exchange Place, a special concert where invited storytellers from across the country share their finest tales; the Swappin’ Ground, where anyone who registers on-site at the festival headquarters can tell a story; and the Festival Marketplace, where shoppers will find storytelling books, CDs and DVDs, clothing and other souvenirs.
The festival’s Wine and Beer Garden, featuring a selection of regional wine and beer available for purchase, will be open from 4 to 7 p.m., Oct. 3 and from 4 to 8 p.m., Oct. 4 and 5 on the front plaza of the Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall.
Separate tickets are required for two special events: the festival-favorite Ghost Stories concerts and the adults-only Midnight Cabarets.
Storytellers Jon Spelman and Gayle Ross will headline this year’s open-air Ghost Stories concerts, set for 8 p.m., Oct. 4 and 5. Tickets are $10 for
all ages, although the event isn’t recommended for children under 6. Seating is on the ground, so bring a blanket.
Elizabeth Ellis and Kim Weitkamp and her Broken Bucket Band will take the stage at 10:30 p.m., Oct. 4 and 5, respectively, during the popular — and usually sold-out — Midnight Cabarets. Tickets are $20 for adults; the event isn’t recommended for children.
A separate ticket is also required for admission to the Yarnspinner Party, to be held from 5 to 7 p.m., Oct. 5 in the Mary B. Martin Storytelling Hall. Entertainment will be provided by the Jonesborough Novelty Band, who will be joined by some of the festival’s musically-talented tellers, including Donald Davis on the accordion.
Tickets to the event, hosted by the ISC Board of Governors and sponsored by Holston Distributing, Main Street Cafe & Catering and One Stop Wines & Spirits, are $100, with proceeds going to support the work of the ISC.
For ticket prices or a complete schedule of events, call the ISC at (800) 952-8392 or visit www.storytellingcenter.net.