2023 Flatwater Tales Preview


The Flatwater Tales Storytelling Festival has announced the nationally acclaimed storytellers for the 2023 performances. This annual event will return live to the Historic Grove Theater in Oak Ridge, Tennessee on Friday, June 2 and Saturday June 3, 2023.

Lyn Ford Bil Lepp Rev Robert Jones, Sr

The two-day event will feature three storytellers Lyn Ford, Bil Lepp and Rev. Robert B. Jones, each known to audiences nationwide for their wit, wisdom and abilities to make audiences laugh, cry and reminisce. All three tellers will perform different stories at every show.

“A Teller of Home-Fried Tales,” Lyn Ford is a fourth generation, nationally recognized, Affrilachian* storyteller. In addition to being a writer (published in storytelling magazines and newsletters) 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 Affrilachian* 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.

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, Rev. Jones 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 Rev. Jones 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 has recorded many albums of original and traditional songs.

Our Friday and Saturday evening shows will include a special event by one of our tellers. On Friday, June 2, Rev Jones will headline with a musical theme, and on Saturday night, June 3, Bil Lepp will perform a special Oak Ridge-themed story, “I Guess Ol’ John Wasn’t Crazy After All: John Hendrix, the Prophet of Oak Ridge”. More details to follow.

On Thursday, June 1, Lyn Ford will lead a workshop,“Collecting Family Stories:  Gathering and Creating Spoken and Written Narratives” from 12:30 to 3:30 at the UT Arboretum auditorium here in Oak Ridge.

Early bird tickets will be on sale before Christmas and can be purchased online at flatwatertales.com or at the Ferrell Shop in Oak Ridge. This is a great Christmas gift for all ages.

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 Donate to help Flatwater Tales continue its tradition of stellar storytelling with a credit card, please click the Donate button of the page to make you tax-deductible donation.

To become a Sponsor of the 2022 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.

Complete your transaction by entering your donation amount and, on the next screen enter, “Flatwater Tales” on the “what is it for”  prompt .

Questions, comments? Email us at flatwatertales@gmail.com

Sponsorship Levels
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
Presenting Sponsor $5,000 & above – get 4 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.