MerleFest Makes It Easy To Have Fun, 29th Annual Festival Kicks Off Tomorrow. If You’ve Never Been, You Should Go This Year!

Published Wednesday, April 27, 2016 at 12:51 pm

This video – produced by High Country Press – was filmed a few years back. 

By Jesse Wood

MerleFest makes it easy to have fun.

The festival, which begins tomorrow, Thursday, April 28 and ends Sunday, May 1, has a well-earned reputation of being such a well-run festival. Now in its 29th year, organizers have certainly “figured it out” since the first festival in 1988, when musicians were playing on the back of a flatbed truck in memory of Merle Watson.

The festival is located on the campus of Wilkes Community College, which is located just a minute or so from the interstate U.S. 421. After getting off on Exit 286B, you will see immediate signs for paid parking closer to the venue, but free public parking for the festival is located just down the road near the county’s recreation fields. Follow the “letter” signs.

Though this parking is free and further away from the festival, it’s actually more convenient because of the several shuttle stops near the ball fields, where camping and food vendors also exists. This means parking, camping, food and transportation to the festival are all in convenient proximity. Even if you pay for parking, you’ll still likely end up walking a bit to arrive to the festival entrance.

Map of MerleFest grounds at WCC.

Map of MerleFest grounds at WCC.

The shuttle operation is run by the local Boy Scout troops. Not only do these bus trips serve as a fundraiser for the Boy Scout troops but they also are an adventure in and of themselves. My kids particularly enjoy the shuttle rides. Donations are accepted, and generally, I throw in a couple bucks for each ride and more at the end of a long day that features multiple shuttle trips.

With the shuttles running constantly, you rarely wait around for more than 10 minutes, and the shuttles drop you off right at the front gate, where you can hear music reverberating from the Dance Tent. If you have bulky items like a stroller, there is room on the back of the bus. It doesn’t get any easier than that.

The ticket office is right there. The attendants will then search your bags for weapons and paraphernalia and alcohol and other things that don’t belong on the festival grounds.

Then you are off to your own devices to wander through vending shoppes, concessions, kids corner, pickin’ place (bring your instrument), cool-down area, merchandise tent, which usually features a star musician greeting fans, and, of course, the number one attraction – the music stages. Click here to see a list of things to do at MerleFest.

At MerleFest, there is so much go great music and so many talented musicians (young and young at heart) that it doesn’t really matter which stage you are at, you will hear some fantastic music. But with a map and schedule given to you when you walk in the gate, it’s easy enough to find a particular act you are inclined to see.

Consider some of the musical acts this year at MerleFest: Jason Isbell, John Prine, Old Crow Medicine Show, Jerry Douglas, Jim Lauderdale, Tim O’Brien and Steep Canyon Rangers, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, Sam Bush, Bryan Sutton, Peter Rowan, John Oates and more.

If you have a smartphone, I would recommend the MerleFest app, which features all the need-to-know info. Just type in MerleFest into your app finder. It’s free.

Need tickets, click here. Early bird rates are still available on Wednesday.

And just one last thing, don’t let the weather dampen your MerleFest experience. Come prepared for rainy weather – as a little rain generally falls at some point throughout the weekend. But this year the weather looks mighty fine. A little rain is in the forecast but that’s about as good as your can ask for. It is April after all. is an excellent resource that produces an hour-by-hour weather forecast just in honor of MerleFest.

Click to for more info.

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