News from the Tennessee Valley Living Today

Athens hosting storytelling festival

By Danielle Komis Palmer · 340-2447

The old brick walls of the buildings in downtown Athens will reverberate Friday and Saturday with words and laughter at the first Spirit of Athens Storytelling Festival.

The festival will feature many of storytelling’s biggest names from across the region, including 89-year-old legendary storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham. The event is open to people of all ages.

Though storytelling may conjure an image of sitting around a circle rug and listening to a teacher read a book, the art of storytelling is much different, said Wayne Kuykendall, festival chairman.

“All of these people are master storytellers and know how to weave you into the story and get you involved emotionally,” he said.

“They’re so detailed with what they say. They’re writing an oral book in front of you.”

For the Athens festival, story spinners Windham, Bill Lepp, Andy Irwin, Donald Davis and Carmen Deedy will each have an hour a day to share their tales with up to 1,500 people.

Kuykendall, along with other local enthusiasts, wanted to bring a storytelling festival to Athens to spread his love of the craft.

Because of generous donations — major sponsor Charter Communications gave $40,000 and the city of Athens and Limestone County gave $10,000 each — the festival’s admission price is relatively inexpensive for the talented tellers they will showcase, Kuykendall said.

“It’s like if you go to see the Rocky Mountains or see something else great,” he said. “You think, ‘Man, I wish everyone could see this.’

“And knowing what it’s done to Jonesborough (economically) and what it could do here, it’s like, ‘Why not?’ ” he said.

The national festival in Jonesborough, Tenn., is in its 35th year and brings in $10 million to the city each year, he said.

The historic courthouse square will be blocked off for the event and food vendors will provide concessions.

About 6,000 public, private and home school students from Limestone County will get a “sneak listen” to the storytellers Wednesday and Thursday thanks to a $11,500 grant from the Dekko Foundation and $8,080 from the schools.

If you live in Limestone County and your home school or private school student does not have a ticket for the event and would like one, call Kuykendall at 232-0400.

If you go

What: Spirit of Athens Storytelling Festival

Where: Downtown Athens, Marion Street on the east side of the Limestone County Courthouse square

When: Friday from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. (nighttime ghost stories at Big Spring Park in Athens from 10:30 to 11:30 p.m.) and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m.


  • $30 full weekend

  • $20 Friday only

  • $5 Friday night ghost stories at Big Spring Park

  • $20 Saturday only

    Tickets are available locally at Pablo’s on Market Street, from the Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce tourism office, or online at

    On the Net

    For festival schedule or more information, visit

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