If you look at the map of the USA, Tennessee and Alabama seem to be really close together. Practically neighbors. This still confuses me, especially when it turns out it takes an all-night drive to get from one to the other.
But it was so worth it.
Some of us in the Storytelling program decided we would take a weekend off and go to the Front Porch Storytelling Festival in Florence, Alabama. We carpooled, four of us together; we left at 10pm Thursday night to be there Friday morning, bright and early and sleep deprived. We slept in the car in a nice friendly neighborhood in someone's driveway from 3am to 5am, and then we went to a diner to get pancakes and French toast for breakfast. We walked a bit by the river, and then drove to the UNA campus, where we marveled at the lions they keep in a cage (excuse me, habitat), and wondered why ETSU does not keep hypothermic priates in a cage too. The campus, by the way, is absolutely gorgeous, and makes me want to go to college all over again, even in my current thesis-craze.
First thing in the morning we joined a communication class where Andy Offutt Irwin was invited to talk to students about storytelling. He did so, with a lot of music, and humor, and games, and rolling up and down the podium on a chair, and all-around Andyness that everyone loves. The students were immensely entertained; however, for some inexplicable reason, they did not join us when we moved over to the open-air stage for the day's dose of storytelling. It was not the prices (5 bucks per day? come on!) or the lineup (best tellers of the country), and at that point, we jus tran out of guesses, and lay down in the grass to enjoy the show. And we did that for the next two days.
The festival was a lot of fun. The weather was great, a little bit too hot, so the second day we went inside to the theater; but other than that, there was nothing else that needed to be done but to sit or lie in the grass and listen to stories. A lot of stories. The festival featured Andy, Dolores Hydock, Donald Davis, Syd Lieberman, and Bill Lepp (see? told ya!). The whole weeked was filled with their very amazing personal stories. We noticed by the end of the second day that every concert started with "when I was a kid...", which gave the whole event a nostalgic feeling (and a lot of references kids like us could not understand, but since most of the audience was old enough to be our grandparents, they always got the joke). Andy and Bill were hilariously funny, and I finally got to hear enough of Bill to see what people like about him so much. I preferred his personal stories to his tall tales, though, they were adorable.
Syd saved the festival from being labeled (by me) as "100% traditional story-free" when he told Beowulf at his ghost story concert Saturday evening. By this time there were a lot less people, but we stayed until the show was over, and talked with the tellers, and had a great time discussing the today and tomorrow of storytelling as an art form. All these storytellers are not only great on stage, but also wonderful people you just want to put in your pocket and take home with you.
Sunday morning we went to an arts fair in Florence, and bought trinkets and jewelry, and spent more than an hour happily poking around in tents filled with colorful, unique, shiny things. Then, we started the long way home, this time during the day, filled with green hills and mountains, and a lot of music, and the cow game, and everything fun that can happen on a road trip.
Next time you take a road trip, make sure you take a storyteller with you. Or four.