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Photo of Ray Hicks telling a story in front of a painted blue structure
Ray Hicks, storyteller -- National Storytelling Convention, October 1999

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The National Storytelling Festival
A Local Legacy

Almost 30 years ago, a Jonesborough, Tennessee, high school journalism teacher was listening to his car radio with a group of students. They heard a funny tale about raccoon hunting told by storyteller Jerry Clower. This experience gave the teacher, Jimmy Neil Smith, an idea: He would start a local storytelling festival. Around 60 people showed up for the first one in 1973.

Today, Jonesborough is the home of the National Storytelling Festival, which attracts more than 10,000 visitors every October. Storytellers come from all over the world to entertain and educate at this three-day festival. Many tell tales and ancient myths from their faraway homelands. Others tell stories with local settings. Visitors can wander through festival tents and listen to a variety of stories -- hilarious tales, age-old myths or cowboy poetry. Thanks to this festival, there has been a renewed interest in storytelling, not only as a way of sharing information but also as an art form.

Today, the National Storytelling Festival is the oldest and most respected gathering devoted to the art of storytelling anywhere in America. This unique event has influenced a national revival of the storytelling art.

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