Preparations are well underway for MerleFest 2010, presented by Lowe’s, which begins next Thursday, April 29, and runs through Sunday, May 2, on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Now in its 23rd year, MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of Eddy Merle Watson as a fundraiser for Wilkes Community College and a celebration of “traditional plus” music.
Featuring four days of performances by over 100 artists on 15 stages, MerleFest is a great entertainment value and an affordable weekend getaway. As in previous years, the list of performers fits the “traditional plus” definition offered by Doc Watson when describing the rich musical diversity that is a hallmark of the event. Sounds of bluegrass, blues, gospel, country and Americana will fill the air. The award-winning lineup represents a group of artists who have collectively earned over 20 Grammy® Awards, 46 International Bluegrass Music Awards and 4 Americana Music Association Awards, among many others. Doc Watson himself was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1988; received the National Medal of the Arts from President Clinton in 1997; and was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences at the 2004 Grammy Awards show.
The complete lineup and stage schedules are posted at www.merlefest.org. Fans at MerleFest can also expect the unexpected, with special surprises, spontaneous jam sessions and one-of-a-kind musical collaborations.
Ticket purchases can be made on the web at www.merlefest.org, by calling 1-800-343-7857, or at the gate. There are no surcharges or hidden fees on ticket sales. Free parking and shuttle service to the festival entrance are provided. Also, children 12 years of age and younger are admitted free to the festival when accompanied by an adult with paid admission. Gates open on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. and on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 9:00 a.m.
Thursday, April 29, will feature performances by artists including The Zac Brown Band, Taj Mahal, The Duhks, Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, The SteelDrivers, The Gibson Brothers, Balsam Range, The Belleville Outfit, and an opening night dance with Donna the Buffalo, among others. The MerleFest Mandolin contest will take place in the Lounge in Alumni Hall. Thursday is also a day for community outreach, with several MerleFest artists visiting and performing at local schools.
The schedule on Friday, April 30, includes performances by Little Feat, Sam Bush, Dierks Bentley featuring the Travelin’ McCourys, Joey + Rory, Dailey & Vincent, The Waybacks, The Steep Canyon Rangers, The Lovell Sisters, Missy Raines & The New Hip, Donna the Buffalo, The Greencards, Bearfoot, Cadillac Sky, Wylie and the Wild West, Great Big Sea and The Kruger Brothers, among others. There will be an Old Time Set with Doc Watson and David Holt, and dancer Carol Rifkin. The Merle Watson Bluegrass Banjo Championship and the Doc Watson Guitar Championship will also take place on Friday in Alumni Hall. Finalists in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest will compete on the Austin Stage at 2:00 p.m., followed by the announcement of the winners in each category. Winners will perform on the Cabin Stage at 5:45 p.m.
The lineup for Saturday, May 1, includes performances by Elvis Costello and the Sugarcanes, Steve Martin with the Steep Canyon Rangers, Peter Rowan, Tony Rice, Dehlia Low, Nation Beat, Jim Lauderdale and Scythian, among others. The ever-popular Hillside Album Hour, hosted by The Waybacks, will take place at 5:00 p.m., and a special performance by Doc Watson and Friends, beginning at 6:15 p.m., will culminate in a tribute to Merle Watson. Winners of the instrument contests (mandolin, banjo, guitar) will perform on the Cabin Stage starting at 5:10 p.m. The Midnight Jam will take place in the Walker Center (separate ticket required, available to 4-day ticket holders). Hosted by Zac Brown, with opening act Sonia Leigh and Levi Lowrey (11:30 p.m.), the jam will feature The Duhks, The Greencards, Peter Rowan, Dierks Bentley and other surprises.
Sunday, May 2, will feature performances by the Avett Brothers, who will close the festival with their set at 3:30 p.m., along with Doc Watson and the Nashville Bluegrass Band, Roy Book Binder, Eleanor Ellis, Ben Prestage, Buffalo Barfield, The Lee Boys, W.P.A., Red Molly and Larkin Poe (formerly the Lovell Sisters), among others.
In addition to music, MerleFest offers special activities and shopping, all in a family-friendly atmosphere. The Shoppes at MerleFest is a centrally located shopping village featuring demonstrating artisans, vendors, convenience foods, official MerleFest memorabilia, and services such as the MerleFest Post Office, first aid, lost and found, and internet access. The Little Pickers area, expanded in size and scope this year, offers children’s activities, crafts and entertainment. Nature walks of the gardens and forest on the WCC campus will be offered on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
MerleFest 2010 is presented by Lowe’s. MerleFest is grateful to 75+ sponsors for their support in making the event possible, including: Charlotte and Greensboro area BURGER KING® Restaurants, G&B Energy, Pepsi, Taylor Guitars, Cutter, Ray’s Weather Center, WXIII-TV, The Winston-Salem Journal, WTQR Radio and 98.7 Simon. A complete listing of all MerleFest sponsors and additional information about all aspects of the festival can be found at http://www.merlefest.org.