A! Magazine for the Arts

Crowds gather to enjoy the storytelling festival.

Crowds gather to enjoy the storytelling festival.

The National Storytelling Festival turns 50

September 27, 2022

Tickets are on sale for the National Storytelling Festival, which is celebrating 50 years of storytelling as well as the future of the form.

The world’s most respected event of its kind since its founding, the festival is a three-day showcase of an oral tradition that has deep historical roots and exciting new expressions. Thousands of people from across the country are expected to attend.

The festival has taken place in downtown Jonesborough, Tennessee, every year beginning the first Friday of October since 1973—though it had to move online in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s return to in-person storytelling makes the festival’s 50th anniversary an even more joyful occasion.

“Every year, the festival reunites old friends and generations of families whose tradition is to meet up and enjoy a weekend of live storytelling together,” says Susan O’Connor, ISC director of programs. “Many have told me that they think of the festival as a kind of homecoming, and we’re just delighted to welcome them back. We’re planning some great surprises.”

Dozens of featured storytellers are on hand, drawing on traditions from all over the world. Appalachian stories and music are well represented, as are performers from abroad, the deaf community, indigenous traditions, cowboy culture and much more. Most performances are outdoors with ample seating under big-top tents.

“Spending time in Jonesborough during the festival weekend is such a vivid reminder that our nation and our world are made up of so many different kinds of stories,” says ISC President Kiran Singh Sirah. “We have to listen to all of those voices to truly understand who we are. It’s really special to have that opportunity.”

The festival offers flexible ticketing options, with everything from day and weekend passes to individually priced tickets for single events. Tickets for one of the most beloved festival traditions, al fresco Ghost Stories (Oct. 7 and 8, at 8 p.m.), are $10.

For anyone who can’t attend the live events in person, a virtual ticket for recordings of select programming will be available.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.storytellingcenter.net/festival or call 800-952-8392.