1 of 10
Everyone has a story. Meet at the Swappin' Ground in front of the Jonesborough courthouse and share your tale.
2 of 10
Jonesborough is the oldest town in Tennessee (1779) and is home to the Storytelling Capital of the World. The city is proud of its Appalachian culture and the main crest of the Appalachian Mountains rises a few miles southeast.
3 of 10
From the Midnight Cabaret to the Ghost Story Concerts, you'll laugh and chuckle under the tent and under the stars.
4 of 10
Storyteller Donald Davis gets the four-day event underway with a evening of storytelling on September 30.
5 of 10
There are events for the entire family. If you can last until dark, stay awake for the ghost stories held around the gazebo in the town park.
6 of 10
In the International Storytelling Center, you'll find the Six-Word Memoir Station. Choose any six words to tell your story.
7 of 10
Selling necklaces and bracelets to the attendees, children craft a unique version of their story.
8 of 10
In the midst of the laughter, you'll also find the serious, the heart-warming, the contemplative story.
9 of 10
A storyteller taking the sidewalk stage at the courthouse sharing her tale.
10 of 10
The Ghost Story Concerts are open-air performances held beneath the nighttime sky. Get there early for a good seat. Always a favorite.
People are strange creatures, with all those peculiar attitudes, offbeat beliefs, bizarre actions, extraordinarily strange foundations. Funny thing, place all these creatures in one room, under one tent, and watch all the peculiar + offbeat + bizarre + strange characteristics fade away.
Under a tent, at the front on a constructed outdoor stage is a man. His grandfatherly appearance makes me wonder how in the world he could remember his first day of first grade, but he did. Right down to the name of a boy in his class who shared that his “daddy’s been drunk for four days.” His parents were shocked and from that point forward, limited the questions around the dinner table to specific inquiries.
Teller Donald Davis waved his arms, pointed his fingers and stomped his feet, drawing me into his life, and painted such a vivid story, that I thought I was sitting at that dinner table. Story after story, he continued spinning yarns that connected the two of us. Connected every single person in the audience to this stranger who had now become family. “The best stories are about ordinary things,” he says. His best stories are my best stories, too. Maybe with a different slant, a different character, a different outcome, but we’ve all had teachers, all been to first grade, all sat around the dinner table, all had a pet of some sort. We are all connected.
I think now, more than ever, we need a connection to neighbors, to strangers. Storytelling takes on that challenge and through ordinary people, extraordinary moments happen. When something is shared, the void between two people decreases and draws them closer together. Pure physics. Pure magic. Pure – whatever you want to call it – joy.
At the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, there’s very little separation between people. Thousands from all over the world travel to a small community in northern Tennessee to sit next to strangers and have a belly shaking laugh or shed a tear or two. Together.
I could tell you that this is an incredible festival, but I want you to go see – and listen for yourself. It’s the most fun you can have with a thousand of your newest friends.
Judy and Len Garrison are at home in Farmington, Georgia, just on the outskirts of Dawg country - better known as Athens. Len, an IT manager for a major Atlanta company, and Judy, an editor, author and travel writer, invite you to travel along with them as they explore the best of the South. Email them at email@example.com. Visit their website at Seeing Southern, and follow them on Twitter at @judyhgarrison, @seeing_southern, LIKE them on Facebook and on Instagram.