KINGSPORT — Believe it or not, some area fourth-graders Thursday morning were reading newspapers intently, albeit editions published long before they were born.
And a first-grader was playing and singing songs with his great-grandfather's band as his classmates cheered him on.
It was all part of Rock Springs Elementary's fifth annual Storytelling Festival, which this year for the first time was merged with the annual Grandparents Day celebration.
The event proved so popular it overfilled parking at Rock Springs and a section of a lot at nearby Sullivan South High School, and Principal Alesia Dinsmore said thanks go to teacher Julie Anderson for organizing the event year after year.
Among new events this year were a Newseum Scavenger Hunt, square dancing for children and adults, storytellers from East Tennessee State University and the moving of Grandparents Day, when grandparents visit and eat lunch, to coincide with the storytelling festival.
"This is the biggest ever," said fourth- and fifth-grade social studies teacher Anderson, who started the festival five years ago after an oral history project in her classes the year before sparked the idea.
"They were retelling family stories to me," Anderson said. "We combined storytelling and Grandparents Day."
Each year, Anderson said family stories come in that amaze her. This year, she said a brother and sister shared the story of how their great uncle was one of 243 passengers and 16 crew members who perished in December 1988 on Pan Am Flight 103 after a bomb exploded on board and the plane crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland.
The Newseum used old issues of the Kingsport Times News, Kingsport Times and Kingsport News, which students had to read in a search of facts ranging from the identity of Robert F. Kennedy's killer in 1968 to who perished in the Chappaquiddick automobile accident involving U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1969.
(The answers, by the way, are Siran Siran and Mary Jo Kopechne.)
Evelyn Edwards, a retired Sullivan County first-grade and Title 1 teacher, is enrolled in a storytelling certificate program at ETSU. She taught at Kingsley and Ketron elementary schools, as well as Miller Perry and Holston elementaries.
(A video of her telling the story is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TNrickwagner/videos/732207877142008/. Three other videos from the event are available in the online version of this article/photo gallery.)
"I just couldn't give up the school teaching," Edwards said.
She told "Three Billy Goats Gruff," a Norwegian fairy tell, in a tent full of students outside the school.
Later, nearby under a canopy in front of the school, the John Pafford Band performed. It is made up of Bill Copas on electric and acoustic guitar; Eddie Trent on steel guitar; singer Johnny Pafford on fiddle, harmonica and guitar; and bass player Dennis Linkous.
First-grader Blake Duncan, great-grandson of the band's namesake, joined the group on Thursday, playing guitar and singing on one number and playing fiddle and singing on another as his classmates cheered for him.
Students also got the chance to wash and dry clothes the old-fashioned way, with a washboard and clothesline. Those included third-grader Gabe Morrell, assisted by South High sophomore Kasia Oliver, as well as Orlando Mack, Meagan Burke, Zoee Bennett and Samiyah Trumpler.
Other activities were the student Storytelling and Wax Museum, the latter where students in character as historical figures told about themselves; the Old Time Candy Store, Quilt Museum and Taste of Tennessee Tent featuring Tennessee-made Mountain Dew, Goo Goo Clusters and Moon Pies.
Students also made crafts and had hay rides.