Where Everyone Has a Story to Tell

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Where Everyone Has a Story to Tell

Celebrating its 43rd year and named one of the Top 100 Events in North America, I was unaware it existed until I had a great job in Denali National Park, Alaska regaling guests with stories about actual women in the Gold Rush, the Conservation Movement, and Athabaskan story telling. With millions of visitors coming through Denali seasonally (within about four months’ time!). One particular bus load full of people from Tennessee could not stop telling me about their National Storytelling Festival, held yearly, the first weekend in October in Jonesborough, Tennessee.  They encouraged me to enter one year and I had loads of offers of places to stay.

One summer evening in 1973, a high school journalism teacher, Jimmy Neil Smith, and a carload of students heard Grand Ole Opry performer Jerry Clower deliver a mesmerizing story about coon hunting in Mississippi. Smith was inspired to hold a storytelling festival right where he taught and lived in northeast Tennessee.

Where Everyone Has a Story to Tell

The first National Storytelling Festival was held the first weekend in October, 1973 using hay bales and wagons for stages with about 50 to 60 people including the storytellers, which started a storytelling revival around the world. The unusual story of being so moved to take action after hearing a folktale on the radio was picked up by the media and quickly caught on. There’s just nothing like a great story.

This year about ten thousand people from around the world are expected for the October 7 – 9, 2016 event, with stories the entire family and people of every age will love about different cultures, wildlife, growing up, experiences and lots of interesting things and perspectives. Performances during the daytime hours are geared towards a general audience with the more mature subjects presented later in the evening. There are storytellers in residence along with competitions, and open mikes for anyone with a story to tell.

The Innkeepers’ Story: Chuck & Dona Lewis

“Born and raised in New Jersey, we began visiting Jonesborough in 1982 for the Storytelling Festival and fell in love with the town and its residents. After our children grew up we decided to relocate to Jonesborough. After many months of careful looking we found the Franklin House. We enjoyed restoring it and opened our bed & breakfast in 1997. Since that first season, the same guests return every year to enjoy the Storytelling Festival.” So true, loads of people return year-after-year. It’s a beautiful part of the country. You can even consider volunteering while you are there to meet performers and locals one-on-one. Make your reservations ahead of time and share your stories about your trip right here with all of us! I’m sure you’ll have a story to tell.

For More Information:

National Storytelling Festival, 116 Main St., Jonesborough, TN 37659; 1-800-952-8492; 423-753-2171; Fax 423-913-8219; www.storytellingcenter.com; custserv@storytellingcenter.net

The Historic Jonesborough Visitor Center, 117 Boone St., Jonesborough, TN 37659; 1-866-401-4223; 423-753-1010; Mon.–Fri. 8 a.m.–5 p.m. and weekends 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

Where Everyone Has a Story to Tell

Historic Eureka Inn, 127 West Main St., Jonesborough, TN 37659; 1-877-734-6100; 423-913-6100; fax 423-913-0429; eurekainn@earthlink.net.


Franklin House Bed & Breakfast (116 Franklin Ave., Jonesborough, TN 37659; 423-753-3819; franklinhousebb@embarqmail.com).



  • Sheryl Kayne is a writer, editor, educator, and motivational speaker. She is the author of travel guidebooks. Immersion Travel USA: The Best & Most Meaningful Volunteering, Living & Learning Excursions was awarded The Society of American Travel Writers Foundation’s Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award for Best Travel Guidebook 2009 and Volunteer Vacations Across America was named on Amazon’s list of best new travel books 2010. Kayne travels extensively and works and volunteers where she visits. She was the writer-in-residence at the Everglades National Park, Homestead, Fla. and a writing fellow at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, N.M. She has appeared on NPR, CNN, CBN, ABC Weekend Evening News, Lifetime Television Network, and MTV, among others. Visit Sheryl at: www.sherylkayne.com/

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