The National Storytelling Festival returned to Jonesborough, Tennessee, for its 45th year, delighting audiences with stories told from a different varieties of storytellers.
The festival was held in historic downtown Jonesborough with different tents sent up around the area for the storytellers to perform, rain or shine. Donald Davis, a storyteller from Ocracoke Island, North Carolina, performed in the tent next to the Jonesborough courthouse.
“I just grew up in a family where everybody talked,” Davis said. “We didn’t call it storytelling; it was just we’d tell about ‘the time when’ and ‘the time when.’ And then people would hear me tell some of those things and they would ask me to tell that for a program somewhere, and then it just kind of spread on its own and gradually I got pulled into it.”
Davis said he had been telling stories for 50 years. He said his stories are about things that happen in real life, and a lot of them are about growing up.
“They’re all about a trouble of some kind,” Davis said. “Often it’s the time that you decided you wanted to do something and then it was a bad decision.”
Davis said that this was his 37th year at the storytelling festival, and that the audience is the easiest audience and the hardest audience. It’s the easiest because they know exactly why they’re here, and they’re wonderful listeners. It’s the hardest because they’ve heard everything and you can’t trick them; they’re experienced listeners.
Since every audience is different, Davis said he has no favorite stories.
“I think ‘what’s the right thing for right now, what’s best thing for now’,” Davis said. “And I try to think about if you have a favorite you quit working on new stuff, so I have to keep working on new things.”
Many of the stories told at the festival were about situations that the audience members could relate to, which in turn left the audience with new stories to tell.
“I hope my stories will remind them of things that happen to them or people they’ve known,” Davis said. “So when they leave, they’ll be remembering a story of theirs that they haven’t thought of for a long time.”