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Volume 26, Number 12 — December 2018

October ushers in the National Storytelling Festival, a world- famous tradition

Waddie Mitchell (photo by Donald Kallaus)
Waddie Mitchell (photo by Donald Kallaus)
Additional photos below »

September 30, 2015

In Jonesborough, Tennessee, the storytelling capital of the world, tickets are on sale for the National Storytelling Festival, an annual gathering of some of the world's top talent. The oldest and most prestigious festival of its kind, NSF offers one-day and weekend passes for regular programming, as well as one-time admission to special events.

The three-day celebration of oral traditions from around the world-recently named one of the top tourist attractions in the nation by the flagship event of its producer, the International Storytelling Center. The festival runs Oct. 24, with regular programming scheduled from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sunday. The autumnal celebration of the world's oral traditions has been an annual tradition since 1973, when the first National Storytelling Festival spawned the American storytelling revival.

The 2015 festival features nearly two dozen storytellers who take turns performing under big-top tents scattered across downtown Jonesborough. The diverse lineup includes Waddie Mitchell, a cowboy poet; Mats Rehnman, a Swede who specializes in Scandinavian folk tales; Noa Baum, an Israeli storyteller with a background in peacebuilding; Peter Cook, a deaf performing artist who uses American Sign Language; and Jan Blake, a Brit who specializes in Caribbean stories from her Jamaican heritage.

A homecoming for some of the industry's finest performers, this year's featured tellers also include perennial favorites such as Donald Davis, Jay O'Callahan, Bil Lepp and Kim Weitkamp. By showcasing oral traditions from the South and all over the world, the festival inspires unexpected connections and promotes cultural understanding.

In addition to the festival's signature programming, there's a handful of special events included in the price of the ticket, such as Exchange Place, a concert featuring new talent; the Swappin' Ground, where anyone can tell a story; and a Story Slam. Separately ticketed events include two nights of al fresco Ghost Stories; and the Friday night Midnight Cabaret, featuring the Dill Pickers.

Two pre-festival concerts are also be held on the festival grounds: celebrated storyteller Donald Davis, Wednesday, Sept. 30, and renowned humorist Jeanne Robertson, Thursday, Oct. 1. Both all-ages shows begin at 7:30 p.m., and tickets can be reserved in advance or purchased on site while supplies last.

Tickets for the National Storytelling Festival — as well as all special events throughout the week — can be purchased online at, at the International Storytelling Center in downtown Jonesborough, or on the festival grounds.

For more information or to make reservations, call ISC at 800-952-8392, ext. 221.


Jan Blake (photo by Tommy Bay)

Adam Booth (photo by Katelyn Stoneberger)