Over 40 years ago, a high school journalism teacher and a carload of students heard Grand Ole Opry regular Jerry Clower spin a tale over the radio about coon hunting in Mississippi. And the teacher, Jimmy Niel Smith, had a sudden inspiration: Why not have a storytelling festival right here in northeast Tennessee?
The festival now, in its 42nd year and acclaimed as one of the top 100 events in North America, sparked a renaissance of storytelling across the country. To spearhead the revival, Smith and a few other story lovers founded the National Storytelling Association. The founding organization became the center of an ever-widening movement that continues to gain momentum to this day.