The International Bluegrass Music Association has issued their followup report for the 2021 World of Bluegrass week, which ran from September 28 through October 2 in Raleigh, NC. This year’s events, which included the World of Bluegrass Business Conference, IBMA Bluegrass Awards show, and the twin Wide Open Bluegrass festivals in downtown Raleigh, were heavily affected by uncertainty over COVID spread and regulations, but there was some good news amidst the gloom.
Both sides of the great COVID debates had reasons to stay away. Those quite fearful of viral spread avoided WOB entirely, and many others were offended by the vaccine requirement to attend, so IBMA staff went in expecting a lower than normal attendance. Which was borne out in the final numbers.
Even though registered attendance was off by almost 50% over 2019, the last time the event was held in person, the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau still issued a conservative estimate of $5.7 million in direct economic impact in Raleigh and Wake County from World of Bluegrass. This includes hotel stays, restaurants, airline traffic, and the like over the five day period. This estimate is in straight dollars, absent any of the multipliers often added to these figures.
Pat Morris, IBMA Executive Director, who was overseeing the first convention in his new position, says that their first priority was to be back, live in person after holding World of Bluegrass virtually in 2020.
“It was vitally important to get back to live bluegrass music, as both musicians and fans were impacted by the events of the last two years. The IBMA was able to accomplish holding a great weeklong event in a safe environment, and we are so grateful for the lead support of PNC Bank and all of our partners in Raleigh who helped make the event possible, and to the fans that returned, again, to make this the best week of bluegrass in the world. It was a tremendous event, and we can’t wait to be back in Raleigh in 2022!”
Prior to the start of this year’s events, the IBMA, the city of Raleigh, Pinecone, and the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau had announced a three-year extension to their contract, which means that World of Bluegrass events will remain there through 2024.
David Brower, Executive Director of PineCone – the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music – echoed Pat’s sentiment about the need to return to a live, in person status.
“Given all that’s happened over the last two years it was hard to know what to expect from the festival. No matter how you measure it, we are pleased with the 100% increase in attendance over 2020. Virtual was fun—but there’s no comparison to seeing the streets of downtown Raleigh filled with banjos, fiddles, and smiling faces. We’re definitely back and are already looking forward to next year.”
Dates for the 2022 World of Bluegrass are September 27 through October 1. More details will be available online next year.