Trading stories with joy at Fort Watauga

Published 8:47 am Monday, October 28, 2019

Onlookers were huddled in a semi-circle, watching with intensity as the man at center-stage regaled the story he had heard a lifetime ago. His body formed shapes as he told the stories of different characters, places and things. No campfire was present for this round of storytelling, but it hardly made a difference. To those in attendance, it was like listening to a teacher read from a book when they were in elementary school.

Sycamore Shoals State Park hosted its annual Scary Stories at Fort Watauga event Thursday evening, bringing in dozens of people to partake in how stories and events used to be told: by word of mouth.

“We started it at the Carter Mansion,” museum curatorial assistant Chad Bogart said. “We outgrew that venue.”

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Now it takes place at the fort at the state park, bringing in dozens of people a year to watch lively songs and stories passed down through the generations. Some were funny, some were disturbing and some just made no logical sense at all.

“Storytelling lends itself well to this time of year,” he said. “It has been a tradition for centuries.”

Bogart is only one of the three people who tell stories throughout the evening. He said he gets his inspirations from his grandmother.

“Today, we tend to get our entertainment from the internet,” Bogart said. “Things are so fast, you cannot stay focused. This is a chance to rewind, use your imagination, to picture what they are saying with your mind.”

The community gets into each story the presenters tell as the night goes on, from roaring laughter as the playful song tells its joke, to the eerie silence as they hear the creepy story of an ugly creature with two noses.

“We have a lot of repeat people,” Bogart said. “I love seeing people have a good time.”

He said storytelling like this is good for you in more ways than one.

“I think storytelling is good for your health,” he said.

For those who missed the fun Thursday evening, Bogart said storytelling events take place all the time in the region, particularly in Jonesborough.

“This area is steeped in storytelling,” he said.