Some folks in Jonesborough, Tennessee, thought the town would do just fine marketing itself with its tried-and-true historic claim: “oldest town in Tennessee.” Only in recent years did a consultant steer the town in a different direction, urging leaders to capitalize on Jonesborough’s longstanding international fame as a center of storytelling.

Appalachia was in danger of losing the traditional art of storytelling when Jimmy Neil Smith, then a high school teacher, created the first National Storytelling Festival almost half a century ago. “We saved Jonesborough and we saved storytelling,” he says in the latest episode of Save Our Towns.

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Elsewhere in the episode, Maxwell Vandervliet, of New York City, a master's student of urban and regional planning in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, hits his stride in deconstructing Appalachia’s outdoor recreation in the Maxwell’s Number segment.

Those following Pennington Gap developments will find much fodder in the current update. Virginia Tech’s Office of Economic Development, along with researchers from Virginia Tech’s Institute for Policy and Governance, presented the town with a slew of data and analysis to help the town chart its course.

Save Our Towns, produced by Outreach and International Affairs, has won communications, higher education and public service awards since its launch in 2014. The series speaks to small-town mayors and town managers throughout Appalachia with a mission to guide and inspire those who are working to build strong communities.