MerleFest officials said Monday that the acclaimed Chris Austin Songwriting Contest will held, in a slightly altered format, even though MerleFest itself has been canceled for 2020 because of the coronavirus.
The first contest judges waded through a record 1,065 entries and selected three finalists in each of four categories: bluegrass, country, gospel and general. Those finalists will be announced before April 1.
Usually, the finalists perform during the festival in front of another set of judges who determine first, second, and third places in each category. That can’t happen this year, obviously, so the finalists will compete next year. The 2021 finalists will also be judged, separately, at next year’s MerleFest.
Proceeds from the contest fund the Chris Austin Memorial Contest at Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, N.C. Austin, who played with Ricky Skaggs and Reba McEntire, died in a plane crash near San Diego 29 years ago today, along with other members of McEntire’s band and her road manager.