Like a waterfall, every Merlefest experience is unique and familiar at the same time. Each has its own charm and distinctiveness; yet, each offer common essential characteristics. Festival organizers have a designed a flexible and ever improving formula for success.
Merlefest 2007 is gearing up for a new celebration and what a party it promises to be for this their 20th year. This year's festival will be held April 26 – 29th, 2007 beginning at 3:00pm on Thursday afternoon and concluding on Sunday at 6:00pm. That's 45 hours of continuous music provided by nearly 100 artists and that doesn't include the mid-night jam on Saturday after hours which requires a separate admission. Merlefest is the largest musical celebration in the United States with 12 stages scattered across the Wilkesboro Community College.
Wilkesboro, NC is at the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountain range. The campus is nestled squarely in the center of town and surrounded by the beauty of the nearby mountains. The festival is held in early spring, when the trees are in fragrant bloom and the air is warming. In the evening, as you sit near the Watson stage, the surrounding trees are spot lit with ethereal qualities adding to the festival's charm. At the festival, you will meet people from all walks of life coming from near and far. Take the time to chat with those around you and you will find a friendly face in each one.
This festival is a dry festival. Greeters at the entrance will check your bags and confiscate all beverages containing alcohol. Let the music give you a natural high. The food vendors are all not-for-profit organization and the food is "oh so delicious". You will be amazed at the menu choices and the prices.
Excitement is building in anticipation of the set scheduled for Saturday evening's close. Tony Rice will be teaming up with Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas. The set will focus on Tony's life time achievements. Other highlights included two special jam sessions scheduled for Saturday afternoon and evening:
• New Generation's Jam featuring the Duhks, the Infamous Stringdusters, Uncle Earl and Crooked Still
• Home Coming Jam hosted by the inimitable Sam Bush with Doc Watson and Friends.
The Waybacks return to the Watson Stage on Thursday evening. The award winning Cherryholmes Band takes the stage later in the evening on Thursday. Other big draws include Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Elvis Costello, Del McCrory, Marty Stewart, and the legendary Earl Scruggs. The dance tent will also be hopping with the return of one of Merlefest favorites, Donna the Buffalo and the ever popular Red Stick Ramblers. Of course, Doc Watson, Richard Watson, Jack Lawrence, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, John Cowan, T. Michael Coleman, Peter Rowan, Darryl Scott and Pat Flynn will be on hand throughout the weekend.
The schedule is rich with "don't want to miss" opportunities but realize that it's impossible to take it all in. Get the schedule and study it and the pick the best of the best as you see it. There is truly something for everyone to enjoy.
For more information on the festival check out the Merlefest website.
For more pictures of Merlefest 2006 - Checkout
Photo's by Big Al by permission
Photos by Chris Curtis
If you want to get a flavor of the festival, you might consider one or more of these recordings.