From The Side of the Road… health tips for your World of Bluegrass experience

In past years when we get to this month of the calendar, I have discussed sleep, fitness, and diet strategies for having a safe and healthy IBMA World of Bluegrass. For the uninitiated (most of the population), this is bluegrass music’s biggest event of the year. It’s Christmas, Hanukkah (don’t you dare bring up the Hanukkah channel again!), Halloween (based on some attendees’ clothing choices) and Tax Day all rolled into one. There’s a trade show, business conference, multiple awards shows, showcases, jam sessions, and a lot of waiting for elevators.

Even before we were dealing with COVID-19, this was an event that was known for taking its toll on attendees’ physical health. Many people left the event sick with some ailment or other, and the primary host hotel, no matter which hotel or in which city it was, was always blamed. “It’s the ventilation,” was the usual cry. Surely it couldn’t be sleeping two hours a night, shaking a lot of sweaty hands, and packing on to an elevator with 23 people.

Everything we’ve learned to do in the past two years is exactly the opposite of what we have traditionally done for up to a week at the IBMA WOB.

I will, of course, leave the amount of COVID risk you intend to take up to you (which will save this comments section from blowing up like bag of hand grenades), and we’ll just concentrate on the diet and fitness part.

A lot of new information has come along since we last discussed this, such as the new disdain for tomatoes, intermittent fasting, and the advent of the Keto Diet (named for General Maximilian Keto of Flanders, who was thin and successful, but still craved donuts).

The World of Bluegrass diet is famously terrible, and usually consists of slightly stale cake from the Marriott Starbucks, delivery pizza, and whatever is put out for snacks in the Pickin’ in a Large Field festival showcase room.

Intermittent fasting isn’t a problem because we sometimes just forget to eat for 16 hours at a time, anyway. We just have to be aware of it and realize that it’s okay. 

Here’s a suggested Tuesday thru Saturday IBMA World of Bluegrass Diet. There are plenty of food options within easy walking distance of the convention center, and you can also go grocery shopping, so everything on this list is relatively easy to obtain. It just requires a little planning. Just use the same kind of organization you use to attend your preferred showcases and seminars. Maybe that’s not a great example.

The diet:


Breakfast: Biscuits and gravy. Side dish: cantaloupe.
Keto alternative: gravy
Vegan alternative: cantaloupe

Lunch: Beef, bean, and cheese enchiladas. Side dish: Mexican rice and small salad
Keto alternative: Beef and small salad
Vegan alternative: long conversation with somebody about pick shapes

Dinner: Chicken and waffles. Side dish: waffles
Keto alternative: Chicken and waffle-shaped chicken
Vegan alternative: Vegan waffles. Side dish: Same

I’m already tired of this meal-planning. That should work for a few days, if you don’t mind a biscuit and waffle-based diet.

Fitness is another challenge, but we can take some action to improve the week for our bodies. If you’re able to get away from the long-winded individual who has you trapped by the conference registration (“So then I said to Béla, why don’t you call your band ‘the Flecktones,’ and he said . . .”), you probably build up a lot of steps during the conference. It’s just that those steps aren’t always consistent and they come with lots of interruptions. 

I recommend, treating it like a circuit, something like this: 

Start at the Raleigh Convention Center conference registration booths, then head upstairs to the first seminar room, where the “How to Be a More Arrogant Bandleader” seminar is happening. Poke your head in, but quickly move on, heading downstairs to the exhibition hall. Walk quickly by every booth, sampling their candy and acting interested in their product (known as the “Costco strategy”), but never stopping anywhere for more than five seconds. Head back upstairs, then walk outside to the Marriott, go straight to the bar, act like you’re looking for someone, then walk back out, head to the Sheraton and do the same. Walk back to the convention center and you’re done. Do this once a day.

In order to keep your momentum going, however, you will have to master the “IBMA walk,” which I may have discussed in a previous column. If not, I should have. To avoid being stopped by someone along this circuit, you have to walk in a quick and purposeful manner, as if you’re late for a seminar or have left your phone somewhere. While doing this, relax your gaze until everyone looks blurry and a little like Lester Flatt wearing pajamas. This way, you will appear to not recognize anyone because you actually won’t (it can’t be the real Lester in pajamas, after all, or it’s unlikely), and your determined walk will deter most people. The occasional look at your watch wouldn’t hurt.

Alternatively, you could take your phone out and pretend to be having an important conversation, maybe even an argument:

“No that wasn’t J.D. Crowe, it was Sam (Porky) Hutchins . . . Yes, exactly . . . Okay, but don’t forget to take it out once an hour and baste it . . . Sure . . . Good luck . . .” (Just some ideas; feel free to come up with your own script).

Finally, there’s the issue of sleep, which is in very short supply during this week. New studies from the IFMB (the Institute for Faux Medical BS) suggest that quality of sleep may be just as important as quantity. To put that in IBMA WOB terms, two hours of solid, restful sleep might be just as good as four hours of fitful interrupted sleep. To achieve this kind of revitalizing rest, it’s recommended that you reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption well before your 4:00 a.m. bedtime (I don’t make these rules), avoid looking at your phone one hour before sleep, and try to keep from listening to disturbing songs, like The Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake, The Ghost of Eli Renfro, or Down the Road.

I’m wishing you a happy and healthy IBMA World of Bluegrass.