When the first Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival was held in October of 2012, two things were clear to folks familiar with this lovely region of North Carolina. First was the undeniable fact that in good weather, it was a slam dunk site for a festival later in the year, after the summer tourist rush, and while warm temperatures could still be found at the beach.
But just as certain was the reality that hurricane season would catch up with them eventually. They might run for a dozen years or more before a named storm arrived uninvited, but as year-round residents of this barrier island community know too well, October storms are always an unwelcome possibility.
The Hemilright family who manage the event, known now as the Bluegrass Island festival, saw gorgeous weather and great turnouts the first three years there in Manteo. But in 2015, hurricane Joaquin rolled through the region and forced the cancellation of the last two days of stage shows. This was was the same storm whose remnants caused the IBMA’s Wide Open Bluegrass festivities in Raleigh to move indoors the following weekend.
2016 and ’17 also delivered favorable weather, but Cory Hemilright has just announced that starting in 2019, Bluegrass Island is moving to May. Instead of the last major outdoor festival of the year, they would be one of the first, still held during the off season while room and rental rates are on the more reasonable side.
Surely some fans will be disappointed by the move, but a festival of this scale is a huge financial commitment, and the risk of bad weather is just too big a gamble.
The 2018 festival will be held October 3-6, followed by the first spring event May 15-19, 2019. Ticket for both are now available online.