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Looking for a new perspective on the world? This weekend in historic Jonesborough, Tennessee, some of the most beloved national and international storytellers will take the stage for the 45th iteration of the National Storytelling Festival. This year, the festival takes place over the first weekend of October, from Friday, October 6 to Sunday, October 8.
Jonesborough, just down the mountain from Asheville, is a particularly picturesque small town brimming with history. The oldest town in Tennessee, Jonesborough was the center for the abolitionist movement in the Confederate south, and was the publication and print site of The Emancipator, an anti-slavery periodical. Today, Jonesborough still leads the nation in progressive creativity with the Storytelling Festival.
The festival, a production of the International Storytelling Center, transforms the town, as organizers pitch large tents where listeners gather to hear world-class tale-spinning. This year, the diverse lineup includes award winners and improvisers, singers and physical comedians. A host of local storytellers will take the stage as well, including Western North Carolina’s own Sheila Kay Adams and Grammy winner David Holt. Special guests from Gee’s Bend, a historically black community on the banks of the Alabama River famous for its crafts, will perform three times over the course of the weekend.
On Friday and Saturday nights, you’ll have the chance to get into the Halloween spirit with ghost stories from Derek Burrows and Linda Goodman. Ghost story performances begin at 8 p.m. each night. There’s also a Midnight Cabaret for those looking for a bit of late-night indulgence and fun. The weekend also includes workshops, a Story Slam, a Yarnspinners’ Party with live music, and a Swappin’ Ground, where you can share your own story, or just cozy up and listen to other folks.
In an age of rapid-fire technology, where we are constantly bombarded with the latest in news and entertainment by increasingly ubiquitous devices, the old-fashioned tradition of storytelling, where a single person shares with one or more listeners, is a powerful reminder of humanity’s heritage as a group of myth-makers and sharers of cultural wisdom.
The event is making use of some technology, though. Live streaming of storytelling in the main tent will be available through the Storytelling Center’s website.
Get your tickets for the National Storytelling Festival at the Jonesborough Visitor’s Center, as web registration is now closed.