As the long days of summer dissolve into the hustle and bustle of early autumn, it seems like everyone’s to-do list starts getting a little longer. But take heart: no matter how crazy your schedule becomes, we can just about guarantee that ours here at ISC is even crazier. The National Storytelling Festival is fast approaching, and suffice it to say we’ve got our hands full getting everything ready for the first weekend in October.
Just now we’re focusing on two critical tasks. The first is scheduling the 100 hours’ worth of programming for the Festival weekend. Then we’re also handling thousands of confirmations from visitors from all over the world. Last year alone, we hosted storytelling fans and travel writers from Brazil, New Zealand, England, Australia, Japan, India, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and France—and that’s on top of nearly every state on the continent.
And that’s just for a start. In the background, we’re vetting the 100 entries we received for our Story Slam so we can narrow it down to six finalists; communicating with hundreds of media contacts locally, regionally and nationally; arranging travel, food and lodging for our storytellers and emcees; creating their personalized schedules; printing 12,000 souvenir programs (on top of the 65,000 brochures that were already distributed), and 1,200 shirts; coordinating with 70 vendors for our marketplace wares (and at least 25 more for the gift shop); and cutting the 14,000 fabric swatches that will serve as “tickets” for all our friends in the audience.
(Whew, we feel tired just making this list. Good thing we have 600 volunteers to help out our dedicated staff.)
As we creep closer to October, we’ll roll up our sleeves to get Tennessee’s oldest town ready for more than 11,000 guests. (That’s more than twice the size of Jonesborough’s permanent population!) Erecting the Festival grounds is sort of like building a miniature city, with hard work that begins about two weeks out. A team of at least a dozen laborers will work for more than a week just to raise the tents around the festival grounds, including those where our tellers will work their magic. Then we’ll build the stages, turn on the lights, set out many thousands of tables and chairs, and put up hundreds of signs so everyone knows where they’re going. Then, the crowning touches: as our caterers start preparing some 600 meals for the talent, we’ll make everything look pretty with 425 mums, 450 hay bales, and 375 pumpkins. Finally, just before our regular programming begins at 10:00 a.m. Friday morning, we’ll charge up our 19 electric golf carts, so we’ll be ready to roll…literally.
Happily, on your end, things are a lot simpler. There’s just one entry to put on top of your to-do’s: head down to Jonesborough. You can even come early for our special pre-festival concerts with Donald Davis and Jeanne Robertson.