An Update on the 2020 National Storytelling Festival

After deep discussion, the International Storytelling Center has decided to shift to a digital format for this year’s event. We want to let you know how we came to this decision and share a glimpse of what we’re planning instead.

As an organization paying close attention to the rapidly changing health guidelines around COVID-19, we’ve had many discussions about how to safely produce an event that brings together so many people from around the world in one place. We concluded that the risks just aren’t tenable. While we’re sad that we won’t meet in Jonesborough this year, our top priority is keeping you, your family, and our communities safe and healthy so we can enjoy many events together in the years to come.

While this situation is unique in our 48-year history, it’s helpful to consider it in the context of storytelling as an ancient tradition that has adapted and evolved through all our world’s most wild and traumatic events. In the spirit of that long history, we’re optimistic, hopeful, and excited to push the boundaries of how we can share this art form digitally. We see this unusual opportunity to expand the Festival’s reach to all sorts of new eyes and ears this autumn!

The 2020 digital Festival will be held, as always, during the first weekend in October. You’ll be able to experience some of the world-class storytellers you’ve come to know and love, all from the comfort of your home! We’ll be announcing more details about the event and line-up this summer, so please stay tuned.
In the meantime, thanks so much for your support. We can’t wait to see you at the digital Festival in October and welcome you back to Jonesborough, the Storytelling Capital of the World, in 2021.

What folks are saying about the National Storytelling Festival

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USA Today

“…the leading event of its kind in America”


Los Angeles Times

”For what New Orleans is to jazz. . . Jonesborough is to storytelling.”

New York Times

“…where thousands of the faithful gather to take part in one of humankind’s most satisfying rites.”

People Magazine

“When autumn comes to Tennessee, TVs go dark and old-time storytellers revive a nearly lost art.”

Boston Globe

“An event that can produce raucous belly-laughs one minute and deep, soul-searching revelations the next.”

Chicago Tribune

“As night fell, many people put on sweaters against the evening nip and set up blankets beside a glowing park gazebo to hear renowned tellers share ghost stories. The park was lit with tiki torches. A drooping willow tree cast spindly shadows. A creek gurgled nearby. I dare you to design a better ghost story venue.”

Smithsonian Institution

“Some stories seem to be made out of whole cloth.  Others are like the Tennessee quilts on sale in Jonesborough’s many craft shops.  They weave together past, present, fact and fiction in a tight design both dazzling and unforgettable.”

Garden and Gun

“Like a Bonnaroo of the spoken word, the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough presents yarn spinning as a living art that can rock a tent packed with hundreds of rapt listeners.”


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“The trance came over the crowd without anyone being aware. A man’s iPod ear buds dangled, unused, around his neck. Potato chip bags lay untouched in teenagers’ laps. Two thousand people sat in folding chairs under a huge white tent, utterly still, listening.”


U.S. News and World Report

“The old-fashioned art of storytelling has become a 21st century sensation.”

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