2023 Flatwater Tales

Thanks to our Major Corporate Sponsors


The Flatwater Tales Storytelling Festival features three nationally acclaimed storytellers for the June 2023 performances: Lyn FordBil Lepp and Rev. Robert B. Jones.

Known for their wit and wisdom, all three will perform different stories at every show. Our 6th annual event returns live to the Historic Grove Theater in Oak Ridge, Tennessee on Friday, June 2 and Saturday June 3, 2023. Performances are at 7 PM June 2 and at 10 AM, 2 PM and 7 PM on Saturday, June 3.

Robert Jones and Lyn Ford kick off the festival with special daytime workshops on June 1 and 2. 

Two Special Events!!

Our Friday and Saturday evening shows each include a special event. On Friday, June 2, Robert Jones will headline with a feature presentation, “American History Through Music.” And on Saturday night, June 3, Bil Lepp will perform an Oak Ridge-themed story, “I Guess Ol’ John Wasn’t Crazy After All: John Hendrix, the Prophet of Oak Ridge.” Both evening shows are from 7 – 9 PM including stories from all tellers

Saturday, June 3, also includes a morning family show, 10 AM – 12 Noon, and an afternoon show, 2 – 4 PM, when every teller will perform different stories at every show.

Two Special Workshops!!

Thursday, June 1, Lyn Ford will lead a 3 hour workshop, “COLLECTING FAMILY STORIES: Gathering and Creating Spoken and Written Narratives for Your Personal Story Box” from 12:30 to 3:30 at the UT Arboretum auditorium in Oak Ridge.

Personal and family stories and folklore are valuable treasures beyond the family tree. This workshop is not a genealogy session! We’ll nurture memories and find ways to gather and regift the stories that even the littlest family members tell. We’ll discover or rediscover gems that increase the richness of your personal narratives. Whether you want to tell or write or encourage or create personal stories, or simply play with remembrances and creative ideas, this is a session for story-sharing fun. How-tos, resources, and down-to-earth tips are offered in a fast-paced and joy-filled session.

On Friday, June 2, Robert Jones will lead a 3 hour workshop,“Celebrating Diversity: Using Music and Stories to Build Bridges” from 9:30 to 12:30 at the UT Arboretum auditorium in Oak Ridge.

Musician and storyteller Robert Jones has opened for BB King, Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal. He presents stories and songs at the National Storytelling Festival and around the country. Every community, family and person has a story worth telling, but how do we learn to fashion and present a story? 

Workshop participants will use stories and/or songs to help communicate across artistic platforms and cultures. This workshop will explore techniques in storytelling context, framework, and structure.

You can learn about the effective use of music and sound effects to enhance your stories. He discusses keeping stories concise and identifying themes that are universal and relevant to both the teller and the listener, building bridges to create common ground.

You don’t have to be musician to enjoy this workshop, but if you are, bring your instrument and your imagination!

Free Driving Tour of Oak Ridge Manhattan Project

This year’s history tour by city historian, Ray Smith, will include a visit to John Hendrix’s grave since Bil Lepp will be telling the John Hendrix story Saturday evening. The tour will also include stops at The Alexander Guest House lobby, the Oak Ridge International Friendship Bell, the Secret City Commemorative Walk, and the Scarboro Community Center. Driving portions of the tour will feature Jackson Square and the east portion of the Oak Ridge Historic District.

We request that you “buy” the free ticket for the tour online like your show or workshop tickets. Your email and phone # you use to get the ticket will allow us to communicate about any important changes affecting the tour.

The tour will begin and end at the Grove Theater parking lot and starts at 1:00 PM on Friday, June 2, 2023.


Several generous donations enable us to reduce all storytelling ticket prices for 2023. We are also providing tickets for children at each show but request that children at the evening shows be 10+ years old due to the length of the show into the night.

Tickets are now on sale with our red Buy Tickets! button on the Menu, at Eventbrite, or in person at the Ferrell Shop in Oak Ridge (cash or check only please).  These tickets make great gifts for family and friends of all ages. Shop now!

The Tellers

Rev. Robert Jones, Sr. is a native of Detroit and an inspirational storyteller and musician. He celebrates history, humor and the power of American Roots music. Whether he’s telling stories about growing up in his native Detroit, sharing tales about old blues musicians or inspirational stories drawn from history or scripture, Robert loves telling stories that reach both the mind and the heart.

He shares his deep love for traditional American and African American traditional music in live performances that interweave timeless stories with songs. For more than 30 years Robert has entertained and educated audiences of all ages at festivals, schools, colleges, libraries, union halls, prisons, churches and civil rights organizations. At the heart of his message is the belief that cultural diversity tells a story that should be celebrated, not just tolerated. He makes his home in Detroit and performs throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. An award-winning multi-instrumentalist, he is accomplished at guitar, harmonica, mandolin, banjo and fiddle and has recorded many albums of original and traditional songs.

Lyn Ford, a “Teller of Home-Fried Tales,” is a fourth generation, nationally recognized, Affrilachian* storyteller. Lyn is also a teaching artist, author and creative narrative workshop presenter. She was the first storyteller in the state of Ohio to be nominated for a Governor’s Award for the Arts. Lyn is a two-time recipient of the National Storytelling Network’s ORACLE award, receiving both its Leadership and Service and Circle of Excellence awards. In addition to being a published writer, she is a recording artist with award-winning CDs. Her “Home-Fried Tales” are folktale adaptations, spooky tales, and original stories rooted in Lyn’s family’s multicultural storytelling traditions.

*Afrilachian or Affrilachian: of African American heritage and history from the region called Appalachia.

Bil Lepp, a five-time veteran of the Flatwater Tales Storytelling Festival, is the star of the History Channel’s “Man vs. History.” An award-winning storyteller, author and recording artist, Bil’s humorous family-friendly tall tales and stories have earned him the appreciation of listeners of all ages from all walks of life. Though a five-time champion of the West Virginia Liar’s Contest, Lepp’s stories often contain morsels of truth which present universal themes in clever and witty ways. His 28 books and audio collections have won numerous awards.


2023 Flatwater Tales Schedule

All tellers tell different stories and perform at every show.

Thursday June 1

  • 12:30 PM – 3:30 PM — Lyn Ford Workshop “COLLECTING FAMILY STORIES: Gathering and Creating Spoken and Written Narratives for Your Personal Story Box” – $50

Friday June 2

  • 9:30 AM – 12:30 PM — Rev. Robert Jones Workshop “Celebrating Diversity: Using Music and Stories to Build Bridges”– $50
  • 1 PM – Ray Smith’s Driving History Tour of Oak Ridge. Please register with free ticket.
  • 7 PM – Evening Show — Robert Jones tells, plays and sings “American History Through Music” ($15 adult, $5 children)

Saturday June 3

  • 10 AM – Family Show ($10 adult, $5 children)
  • 2 PM – Afternoon Show ($15 adult, $5 children). Lyn Ford shares some “Home Fried Tales.”
  • 7 PM – Evening Show ($15 adult, $5 children). Bil Lepp tells a special, commissioned story, “I Guess Ol’John Wasn’t Crazy After All: John Hendrix, the Prophet of Oak Ridge.

Donate and Sponsorships

Welcome to our online Donate/Sponsor page. Flatwater Tales is a Rotary Community Service Project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Our online donation financial partners are the Oak Ridge Breakfast Rotary Club Foundation and the Oak Ridge Rotary’s Community Fund. Both are 501(c)(3) organizations. When you make your online tax deductible donation or sponsorship, the funds will go into their Flatwater Tales account.

If you would like to use a check for your donation, please make it out to the Oak Ridge Rotary Community Fund (or just “ORRCF”), put Flatwater Tales Donation on the memo line, and mail it to:

Flatwater Tales
118 Claymore Ln
Oak Ridge, TN 37830-7674

To become a Sponsor of the 2023 Flatwater Tales Storytelling Festival with recognition in our publicity materials and during the events, choose your Sponsorship Level from the list below and click the Donate button below the list and contact us at [email protected]

Sponsorship Levels
Sketch                                 $25 – $99
Anecdote                          $100 – $199
Vignette                            $200 – $499
Yarn                                      $500 – $999
Tall Tale                              $1000 to $2,499
Legend                               $2,500 to $4,999 – get 2 comp tickets
Show Sponsor                $5,000 to $7,499 – get 4 comp tickets
Presenting Sponsor   $7,500 & above – get 6 comp tickets

History Flatwater Tales

2018, the Inaugural Flatwater Tales

On Sunday, June 3 the inaugural Flatwater Tales Storytelling Festival, supported by a generous grant from the Oak Ridge Fund for Achieving Community Excellence (ORFace), presented the magic of live storytelling with two performances by three world-class tellers, Bil LeppTim Lowry, and Minton Sparks with guitarist John Jackson. Held at the Oak Ridge Playhouse in Historic Jackson Square, it was an Oak Ridge 75th Birthday event that offered different stories at each show. Performances were from 2 to 5 p.m. and 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Our tellers have achieved national and international recognition and appear regularly at festivals, including the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN. Their mesmerizing performances will bring people together to share the magic of this increasingly popular art form.

Kiran Singh Sirah, President of the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, TN, honored us by making opening remarks to help inaugurate Flatwater Tales, Oak Ridge’s first storytelling festival.

The Storytelling was the final event of the Flatwater Festival weekend, an annual all-volunteer effort led by the three Oak Ridge Rotary Clubs to entertain and to raise funds for local grants and projects. It kicked off on Friday, June 1 with a 3 hour interactive writing workshop, “Create Your Own Story,” with Minton Sparks.

On Saturday, June 2, the Flatwater Festival continueed on the waterfront from noon to 9 PM. It featureed live music, beer, wine, food trucks, activities for kids, a team-building regatta, cardboard boat races, and much more.

Flatwater Tales Storytelling concluded the weekend with shows from 2 to 5 and 6:30 to 9:30 PM.

“If you can’t go to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough be sure to come to the Flatwater Tales Storytelling Festival in Oak Ridge.”

2019, the 2nd Annual Flatwater Tales
Storytelling Festival!

The 2019 Flatwater Tales Storytelling Festival in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, washeld from May 31 through June 1.

On Saturday, June 1, the 2nd Annual Flatwater Tales Storytelling Festival presented three performances by three world-class tellers: Carmen Agra DeedyBil Lepp, and Bobby Norfolk. The event moved to the Historic Grove Theatre in Grove Center, Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The tellers shared different stories at each show. The performances were held from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. (Family Show), from 2 to 5 p.m., and from 7 to 10 p.m.

Our tellers have achieved international recognition and appear regularly at festivals, including the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Their mesmerizing performances bring people together to share the magic of this time-honored, increasingly popular art form.

The storytelling weekend kicked off on Friday, May 31, with a writing workshop. Minton Sparks returned to conduct a 3-hour interactive writing workshop, “My Crazy Kin—Transform Your Family Stories into a Compelling Personal Narrative.”

2020, the 3rd Annual Flatwater Tales
Storytelling Festival Posponed!

The 3rd Annual Flatwater Tales Storytelling Festival planned live storytelling with 3 performances by 3 world-class tellers! The Covid19 pandemic forced the show to be rescheduled in 2021.

Set for Saturday, June 6, 2020, the 3rd Annual Flatwater Tales Storytelling Festival had scheduled  Andy Offutt Irwin, Bil Lepp, and Kim Weitkamp to conduct three performances at the Historic Grove Theater in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, with different stories at each show. The performances were to be from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. (Family Show), from 2 to 5 p.m., and 7 to 10 p.m.

Andy, Bil, and Kim agreed to join us all back in Oak Ridge in June 2021! And meanwhile we are continuing with a significant project to help our venue, the Historic Grove Theater become even better as a significant cultural landmark in our area.

2021, the 4th Annual Flatwater Tales
Storytelling Festival was Virtual!

Our featured storytellers were three acclaimed performers: Andy Offutt Irwin, Bil Lepp, and Kim Weitkamp, known to audiences nationwide for their wit, wisdom and abilities to make audiences laugh, cry and reminisce.

The three tellers recorded a live show before a small audience exclusively for Flatwater Tales. This performance included an unrehearsed improv segment, hosted by emcee Paula Gordon Lepp, a new feature in the storytelling world. Their stories are already unpredictable, and the improv portion built on their creativity and spontaneous story-making. A “blooper” roll and a live after-party will concluded the event. Earlier in the day, each of the tellers led a virtual workshop on aspects of their craft.

Technical aspects of our virtual event was professionally produced by veteran virtual technical artists Six Feet Apart Productions.

Flatwater Tales Created For Oak Ridge Residents and Visitors

This is an annual event offered by the three Rotary Clubs in Oak Ridge. The festival’s goals are to help bring our community together, introduce others to Oak Ridge, support local economic activity, and raise funds for the clubs’ community projects.

We expect to grow Flatwater Tales to include local and regional lore, music, and history, and to help share the Oak Ridge story – past, present, and future – with a wider audience. We want to expand our storytelling training to include helping children, seniors, and veterans find their voices using this age-old art form.

The Oak Ridge Fund for Achieving Community Excellence (ORFace) deemed this project an important addition to the culture of Oak Ridge, long known for outstanding achievement in science, education and the arts. ORFace’s first grant was significant in its support of the first presentation of Flatwater Tales.

ORFace is an affiliate fund of the East Tennessee Foundation, which has supported the 25 counties of East Tennessee through more that $336 million in grants made to worthy projects since 1986.