My wife Millie and I have spent the past four Mother’s Day weekends in Chattanooga celebrating out wedding anniversary and enjoying some of the best storytellers in the world. Fortunately for us, but unfortunately for the long-term success of the TaleSpin Festival, attendance has been surprisingly low. We have been privileged to be with world-class tellers such as Donald Davis and David Holt in the company of fewer than 30 fellow listeners. To their credit, these tellers gave us their “A game,” and we now feel closer to them than ever before.
Despite an outstanding line-up of talent, marvelous venues, and extensive advertising, the festival has consistently attracted small crowds. As a result, the festival has gotten smaller each year—from three riverside tents in the first year to a single in-town venue (an enclosed pavilion) this year. The Thursday night “olio” at a historic downtown theater also was discontinued this year.
What has not suffered is the talent. This year’s performers were Carmen Deedy, Andy Offutt Irwin, John McCutcheon, Minton Sparks, and Kathryn Windham plus four excellent regional tellers. The single venue, which provides a good setting except for some traffic noise, meant that we were able to see every performance without relocating, and the final session on Saturday (before the ghost stories) brought all the performers together for a rousing musical finale (see accompanying picture).
I had several discussions with the event’s primary sponsors (Downtown Chattanooga, Inc.) and they are, of course, disappointed but seem determined to carry on. We discussed whether the date is the problem (Mother’s Day, proms, graduations), but they believe not.
We have seen a few fellow Georgians and SOS members at TaleSpin every year, but the operative word is “few.” I have encouraged the TaleSpin sponsors to include this newsletter in their future advertising efforts, and I ask each reader to add a note to your 2010 calendar RIGHT NOW and plan on being at TaleSpin next year. Chattanooga is a lovely city with many good restaurants and lots of things to do in the unlikely event that you grow tired of the stories. Millie and I will be there; we hope you will join us.