All hands on deck for Storytelling Festival preparations

Jonathan Roberts • Updated Oct 2, 2019 at 11:39 PM

With the 2019 National Storytelling Festival just hours away, the International Storytelling Center is “all hands on deck” in preparation for an event that brings thousands to downtown Jonesborough every year.

“We get excited when it’s time for the actual event,” said Susan O’Conner, the International Storytelling Center’s director of programs. “Of course, the weekend is hectic, but the real work went on before that.

“We’re in full swing Thursday; at this point we’re just tying up loose ends and just waiting for our tellers to arrive, and that’s always exciting,” O’Connor added.

And though the festival is no easy event to put on, O’Connor notes that it’s a bit easier considering that the center has been putting on the festival for more than four decades.

“It’s a lot of moving parts, I’ll say that, but we know what they are,” O’Connor said. “It’s just a matter of working it.”

More than 500 volunteers are called on to help before, during and after the festival, and for some of them, seeing the “sleepy” town of just under 7,000 people come alive and prepare for its population to double is quite the sight.

“It’s fun watching the transformation of the town from sleepy little Jonesborough to this crazy place,” volunteer Richard Newell said. “I think it’s interesting to see it all come together.”

For more information on featured tellers, the festival or to purchase tickets, visit www.storytellingcenter.net/festival/

“The Storytelling Festival means a lot to this region, but also to our nation,” ISC President Kiran Singh Sirah told the Press in September. “(Jonesborough) is the birthplace of the national storytelling revival, which happened 47 years ago — the festival is almost like the birthday.

“It’s the celebration, the homecoming, of a movement that started here, but spread out across the world and comes back again,” Singh Sirah added.   

Road Closures

Fortunately for motorists who live near Jonesborough, only Main Street in Jonesborough will be closed throughout the three-day event. Similar to most events requiring Jonesborough to close Main Street, the road will be closed at Fox Street and North 2nd Avenue.


Parking will be available all around Jonesborough, with a shuttle service running from Jonesborough Elementary School, 308 Forest Drive, beginning at 8:30 a.m. and running until the conclusion of the festival each day. Parking will cost $5, and the proceeds will go to the school’s PTA and the David Crockett High School Band. Shuttle rides cost $1 each way.

Parking will be available at the field next to the Country Inn and Suites 376 East Jackson Boulevard. It will also cost $5. There will be other places to park around the town, but O’Connor noted those two will be the main parking lots for festival goers.