In 1985, storyteller Finley Stewart produced the first storytelling festival at the Denton Arts Center, in Denton, Texas. A handful of storytellers and listeners gathered to participate in the ancient art of storytelling. Storytellers told in themed concerts to the listeners. This humble beginning lit a spark in those who participated. By the next year, story lovers worked to establish the Tejas Storytelling Association (TSA) as an official 501(c)3 non-profit organization. They named it Tejas to express Finley’s grand vision of creating an organization that would bring together listeners and tellers from throughout the Texas region.
From these beginnings, TSA rapidly grew. The festival continued to grow, drawing tellers and listeners from Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and New Mexico, as well as across the United States. The festivals began to feature workshops on how to tell stories and showcase nationally known storytellers.
In 1997, Karen Morgan became TSA’s second executive director. She had served years as a volunteer and later as a board member. Through her tenure as executive director, she shepherded the growth of the festival. She solidified the relationship between the Festival and the city of Denton. In 2000, she founded the Denton Storytelling Task Force.
June 2009 brought another change to TSA as the group became an all-volunteer organization, under the leadership of Elizabeth Ellis, then president of the governing board. Elizabeth, a nationally known storyteller, continues to take time from her busy performance schedule to serve as the chair of the HOT FUNDS committee as well as the festival managing director for 2019 and 2020.