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Friday
Oct152010

Jonesborough! The National Storytelling Festival

This has been a season of firsts! 

In the past months I have experienced many storytelling firsts – but the most thrilling of the lineup was going to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough Tennessee.  

This festival began in 1973 when 60 people sat on hay bales to hear Appalachian tales told from the back of a hay wagon parked beside the town courthouse. 

It was so successful it became a yearly event - and grew!

Now about 10,000 people pour into Jonesborough for three days over the first weekend of October every year to hear the best storytellers from America and around the globe tell riveting tales under huge tents that are dotted throughout this lovely town – the oldest in Tennessee.

 I first heard about the festival ten years ago. 

After completing a week long residential storytelling course in England I went to the Greenbelt Arts Festival with my friend, storyteller and cinematographer Shan Stevens. We met some tellers  from the storytelling graduate program at East Tennessee State University at Jonesborough who told us about the National Festival. 

I started salivating – I wanted to go. 

But it has taken a decade for that sown seed to sprout.

This year was harvest time – not only was I going but I knew several of the featured storytellers – which made everything even more exciting – if that were possible! 

Friends Kim Weitkamp and Suzi Whaples were featured “New Voices” – and they both did superbly. 

Each received well-deserved standing ovations at the end of their main one hour sets. I thought my heart would burst with pride on their behalf!

Friends Bil Lepp and Andy Offut Irwin also were telling – and they were as wonderful as usual. 

In his main one hour set, Bil took a break from his normal tall tales style – he is a Champion Liar – a five time winner of the West Virginia Liar's Contest – as well as an ordained Methodist Minister.  He told a true World War ll story, "The GOYA’s, 551st Infantry Parachute Division," in the voice of Suzi Whaples' father whom he had interviewed some years before. 

Bil was utterly believable and so, in spirit, we followed the 18 year old West Virginia serviceman through boot camp, invasion of France, Battle of the Bulge and post war occupation in a tale that was humorous and harrowing and made history live. 

It was an amazing, moving, tour de force. 

Then there were more glorious, glorious words and images from superb storytellers such as 92 year old Kathryn Windham, Donald Davis, Carmen Deedy, Kevin Kling, Eth-Noh-Tech and a host of others.  On Saturday there was a fabulous midnight cabaret with Bill Harley and a group of his musician friends.  (All were new to me except for Donald Davis whom I had seen perform in Williamsburg two weeks previously.  I snagged a seat on the front row.  I was close enough to see his nose hairs!  Glory!)

The only difficulty was deciding what to see because going to hear one teller meant missing someone else.  Decisions!  Decisions!  I was in the tents first thing in the morning and had to be outed with a crowbar as the last word of the night was greeted by applause.  Oh such delicious hours!

Jonesborough is a word lover's paradise - and I am in love with words and stories!

On late Sunday afternoon, after it was all over, a friend of a friend, Sarah Keplinger Hughes, who I had met once before ten years ago, whisked me away for a delicious steak dinner (thank you Sarah!)  I ended the evening in Storyteller Connie Gill’s magnificent saltwater pool and freshwater Jacuzzi, reliving  my recent firsts and reminiscing about the weekend.

Of all the jewel like moments strung together to make a glorious storytelling necklace – one particular event stands out.

The day before the festival started I had gone to get my patch of material that serves as ticket.  When the volunteer with the kind eyes heard it was my first Jonesborough festival he said:

“Welcome Home!” 

Then he got out his wallet, took out three dollars and bought me a lanyard with a clear pouch hanging from it so that I could wear my entry patch with ease. 

It was an unforgettable gesture!

I felt I had indeed come home. 

I had found my tribe.

And when that happens, you know you’ll be back.

 

 

 

 

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    Geraldine Buckley - Blog - Jonesborough! The National Storytelling Festival
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    Geraldine Buckley - Blog - Jonesborough! The National Storytelling Festival
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    Geraldine Buckley - Blog - Jonesborough! The National Storytelling Festival
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    Geraldine Buckley - Blog - Jonesborough! The National Storytelling Festival
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    Geraldine Buckley - Blog - Jonesborough! The National Storytelling Festival
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    Geraldine Buckley - Blog - Jonesborough! The National Storytelling Festival
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    Geraldine Buckley - Blog - Jonesborough! The National Storytelling Festival
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    Geraldine Buckley - Blog - Jonesborough! The National Storytelling Festival
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    Geraldine Buckley - Blog - Jonesborough! The National Storytelling Festival
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    Geraldine Buckley - Blog - Jonesborough! The National Storytelling Festival
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    Geraldine Buckley - Blog - Jonesborough! The National Storytelling Festival
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    Response: new year 2016
    sjrfy
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    National storytelling festival is a great event for all the people because it starting in the way back in 1975 and there are very little amount of people. But after it become the every year event and now it is the most favorite event of the year.
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Reader Comments (2)

Hey, how come my name isn't at the bottom with all those other guys? Loved the blog, loved the festival but love you more!

October 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSuzi Whaples

Oops! So sorry Suzi! It's there now! I love you too - and miss you!

October 20, 2010 | Registered CommenterGeraldine

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