I have been waiting for 4 YEARS to come back to the Festival, and now that I came back, it felt like I have never left. I saw Jonesborough the day before the Festival - anticipation making the air quiver like a heat wave, tents and decorations going up as if by magic, people with that special smile on their faces. I saw Jonesborough after the Festival; the sea of people slowly trickling out of the town, tents disappearing with the last daylight, everyone slightly dizzy and blinking at the sunlight as if awakening from a centuries-long dream.
And, of course, I saw Jonesborough during the Festival, and there is nothing like it.
I have been taking notes furiously all through the weekend (we get university credit for listening to stories, how awesome is that?!) - there is simply too much to remember, and still, too much one will never forget. So right now, instead of recounting the whole three days minute by minute as I would like to do, I will give you my top 5 favorite moments of the weekend!
(The order is purely by chance, mind you, I would never compare them to one another in any way)
Here we go:
1. Dolores Hydock. As a person and as a storyteller. As usual, she was the star of the Festival. I didn't get to hear her tell Silance, which is probably for the better, because I am seriously close to a Silance overdose from listening to her CD over and over again. But I did get to hear her tell Eglamore and Cristobel (and buy the CD, I am so doomed) and half of the time I was looking at other people's faces to see how they reacted to my favorite parts in the story. There must have been about a thousand people in the Library Tent. And we all laughed and cried and had the "Aaaaawwww" experience, and it was perfect.
2. Antonio Sacre. Strange thing, when I was here four years ago, I heard him tell and he was good, but I did not count him among my favorites. But for some reason (people change in 4 years, and I think I am also getting the hang of the whole "personal storytelling" thing) this time I really, really enjoyed his telling. And when Sunday morning he told his own poem about working with high school kids and poetry slams, he completely, utterly blew my mind, and I cheered with the rest of the crowd until my throat went sore. I love working with high school students as a storyteller, I absolutely adore them, and he talked about them with so much love and such a great sense of humor that now he definitely is in my top 5!
3. Clare Murphy. It was great to see her again (I met her before through FEST), and she did such an amazing job on the big stage! People adored her. She was telling in Tent on the Hill, and people were spilling out of the tend and over the hill, to hear her Irish legends. We have a great need for scary fairies and dashing heroes. She apparently enjoyed the well-trained Jonesborough audiences who did whatever she told them to do.
4. Megan Hicks. I did not get to hear the civil war story, but I did go to hear her European fairy tales. She did a great job with Molly Whoopie and the Twelve dancing princesses, but she absolutely rocked Davy and the Devil! She is not your average nice and cuddly fairy tale teller. She is brave and strong and sassy and she had the most amazing voice. For the third time in one weekend, I saw the crowd stand up as one and cheer.
5. For some strange reason, I also count the end of the Festival in my Top 5. Not because I liked the fact that it was over (I could keep going for a week...) but because it ended on such a great note. I was in the Courthouse Tent for the Sunday afternoon show. Ed Stivender was the last teller; he sang a song with us, and everyone sang together, and it was the perfect song for closing the Festival. Just when he was finished, we heard the whistle of the Jonesborough train, and I saw the tellers spill out of the tent right below the rail tracks and wave at the train with hands and shawls and musical instruments as it rumbled by and carried the 39th National Storytelling Festival away.
+1 (There is always a plus one)
I needed to relax and catch my breath, once the Festival was over. I was invited to the storytellers' party for Sunday evening, but I have about two hours to wander around and relax. I finally made my way to the park, and sat on the root of the huge willow tree, and closed my eyes in the nice warm autumn sunshine for a few moments. I heard people talking on the other side of the creek. It was a lady, walking two dogs, and a man in a baseball hat.
"So, did you tell at the Festival?" the woman asked.
"Yes, I did! I told at the Swappin' Ground." the man answered proudly.
"That's great! What did you tell?"
"Oh, just a small story about..." (the dogs barking drowned out the rest)
"That sounds great! Will you tell it to me?"
And they stopped right there in the park, with the dogs barking and jumping, and he told her the story.
This is exactly why the Festival exists.