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Fourth of July brings tall tales to Tennessee’s oldest town

Contributed • Jul 1, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Anne Rutherford, a storyteller who’s celebrated for her rollicking tall tales and other stories, will soon perform as Jonesborough’s teller in residence at the International Storytelling Center.

During her weeklong stay, Rutherford plans to reprise her Clementine Ryder stories, a Wild West adventure character who was a crowd pleaser at the National Storytelling Festival. But most of the material that she plans to share during the week is brand new.

“Every matinee show will be a combination, but I'll be doing some of my prize-winning lies (tall tales) at almost every show,” said Rutherford, who is a five-time winner of the Northwest Folklife Festival Liars Contest. “Also it’s Fourth of July week, so that makes it super fun. On the holiday I’m going to do a show that combines some tall tales with a real-life historical story with a good twist, plus some patriotic songs.” 

Rutherford’s favorite stories are her tall tales, which are all original.

“They start off as if they’re personal stories, but they end up stretching the truth,” she says. “There’s always a moment in the story where it becomes apparent that we’re moving from real life to fiction — from the possible to the impossible, from the truth to a lie. There's often an audible reaction because people are like, ‘Oh, here we go.’ It's like the ride has started.”

The storyteller also dabbles in personal stories, some of which are so absurd they seem like tall tales. One’s about a peacock who helped her mend a broken heart; another is about her first storytelling event, where a tent collapsed on the audience.

Rutherford’s storytelling residency is the latest offering in “Storytelling Live!”, the ISC’s seasonal concert series. She’ll perform at the ISC’s downtown Jonesborough location July 2 to 6, Tuesday through Saturday, with daily matinees beginning at 2 p.m.

On top of to her afternoon performances, on Saturday, July 6 (the final day of her residency), Rutherford will offer a children’s concert featuring fun folk tales from around the world at 10:30 a.m. The family show is especially designed for kids ages six through 10, but all ages are welcome. Tickets are just $5, and ticket holders will receive coupons for 15 percent off at The Lollipop Shop.

“It’s definitely good for kids, and I think grownups will enjoy it too,” Rutherford says.

Reservations for all “Storytelling Live!” performances are recommended. Tickets for all matinees are $12 for adults, and $11 for seniors, students and anyone under 18. Discounted season passes are still available for a limited time.

Exclusive discounts are still available to all ticket-holders. Ticket stubs will earn a 10% discount on same-day dining at Main Street Café (lunch only), Olde Towne Pancake House, Texas Burritos & More, Krazy Krepes, Jonesborough Barrel House, the Icing on the Cake (lunch only), and the Corner Cup. Additionally, Boone Street Market is offering 10% off prepared meals and 5% off any other purchase.

One of the things Rutherford’s most looking forward to during her residency is spending time in Jonesborough, where the pace of everyday life reminds her of the tiny Pennsylvania town where she grew up. “I like the variety in the audience,” she says. “People are there from all different places, for all different reasons.”

The premier sponsor of Storytelling Live! is Ballad Health. Additional program funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Niswonger Foundation, Eastman Credit Union, the Mooneyhan Family Foundation, and Food City. Media sponsors include News 5-WCYB, FOX Tri-Cities, Tri-Cities CW, Johnson City Press, Kingsport Times-News, Herald & Tribune, and Cumulus Media.

Storytelling Live! is a seasonal program that runs from April to October. For more information about “Storytelling Live!”, including the full 2019 line-up, or to purchase tickets and season passes, visit www.storytellingcenter.net or call (800) 952-8392.

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