“I can’t believe we’re almost at the end,” festival first-timer Geraldine Buckley said to the packed College Street Tent before delivering her humorous tales involving British people and their proclivity for a cup of tea.
Buckley and a collection of all-star storytellers spoke for the last time at the yearly event, doing what they did best: offer a variety of styles in a variety of stories to attendees.
The 41st installment of the festival gave attendees three days of tales from performers from all over the world, including Midnight Cabaret and Ghost Story shows.
Before Donald Davis concluded the entire production with a story with the moral that we should always listen if we want to learn, performers gave their last tales.
Charlie Chin told of how a merchant’s bird was to able to outsmart his owner and return to his homeland in the islands of Indonesia. Jackson Gillman described his involvement in his daughter’s lifelong addiction to blueberries. Tim Lowery shared how interesting a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles can be. Bill Lepp gave his account of how he might have caused 5,000 pounds of live catfish to be spilled on the highway on the way back from Pennsylvania. Milbre Burch spoke on what it was like to visit her brother in Providence, R.I.
In one of the more unexpected twists of the festival, Shonaleigh brought new Executive Director of the International Storytelling Festival Kiran Singh Sirah to the stage to help her perform one of her Yiddish songs. Sirah grabbed the microphone, on her command, and began beatboxing as Shonaleigh rapped and sang her tune, bringing the level of applause through the tent’s roof.
The tent was filled with many smiling faces of people seeing the storytellers for the first time, but the biggest smile might have been on the face of Sirah.
“This has been absolutely amazing,” Sirah said after the festival’s conclusion. “I have the best job in the world. I think I got around to see every single one of the performers.”
Sirah said it was a special weekend to have so many schools and groups at the festival Friday, and to have such a wide range of interested faces.
“There were people from 5 to 95 years old,” Sirah said. “And I got to meet so many people, strangers I’d never met before.”
Sirah said he wanted to give special thanks to the local communities and everyone involved who made the festival possible.
“Let’s keep telling the stories for many more years to come,” Sirah said.
One inspired attendee, Kate Gilliard, of Chattanooga, was taking notes on performers she enjoyed, styles she appreciated, and her reaction to each of them. She’s been attending the festival for three years now, and said it’s going to be something she’s always going to do.
Gilliard, 28, who puts Davis atop her list of favorites, said she has a passion for storytelling, but hasn’t yet dipped her toes in the waters of performance yet.
When asked about the possibility of her taking part in something like the festival, Gilliard said, “you never know.”