While most festivals would be wrecked with the rain, Saturday’s weather seemed to enhance the cozy atmosphere, as complete strangers from near and far bonded underneath each of the big tops for the second day of the 40th National Storytelling Festival in downtown Jonesborough.
Beginning at 10 a.m., crowds of people shuffled from tent to tent and were eager to listen to some of the featured tellers, including Donald Davis, John McCutcheon and Bil Lepp.
Pam Pauley, of Waverly, Ohio, said one of the acts she was excited to see was one by storyteller Gay Ducey.
“Her stories are warm and they’re funny and you just get so involved in the story that you almost feel like you were there with her when it happened,” Pauley said after Ducey’s set. “This one was so much fun because of the whole theme of dancing through it. Then at the end when she turns on the music and invites everybody to get up and dance with her, it was great.”
She said last year was her first time to the festival and said she was so impressed with everything she took a week’s vacation to come back again this year.
“People were so friendly and so supportive. It’s just a nice, warm community,” Pauley said.
While she has been a featured teller in the past, Beth Horner said this year she can be seen emceeing and telling ghost stories, something she describes as great, eerie, delightful fun.
She said she grew up with the idea of storytelling, as her grandmother and father were known to spout off a tale or two from time to time.
Horner said she became a librarian and was able to tell learned stories to children, but said she felt somewhat restricted by the age group.
She said when Ellin Greene, who was on the board of directors of the early storytelling organization in Jonesborough, told her about the festival, she was instantly hooked.
“I learned that there were people making their living telling stories. I became so excited,” Horner said. “I came right to Jonesborough, the mothership as we call it of all storytelling events, and just fell in love with the storytellers and the town, East Tennessee and, of course, the storytelling festival. I learned that ... all of these stories that were inside me I could, at last, have a home for them.”
Living in the Chicago area, a place that Horner said has a thriving storytelling presence, she said her storytelling career has led her to work with many organizations such as NASA, National Council of Teachers of English and National Geographic. She said she also attends eight to 12 storytelling events a year and thoroughly enjoys coming back to Jonesborough.
Kathryn Smith sported a yellow poncho and a big umbrella outside the College Street Tent Saturday, working as a volunteer to make sure people going in and out of the tents had a fabric swatch pinned to their clothing.
Living in Louisville, Ky., she said she and her husband make it a point to come to the festival each year.
“We love it. It’s just so much fun,” Smith said. “We cry and laugh and get entertained. We come every year we can.”
The National Storytelling Festival continues today with storytelling acts set up in the Courthouse, College Street and Library tents. The festival will be open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.