When IBMA’s World of Bluegrass business conference kicked off Tuesday in Raleigh, attendees were welcomed to “the bluegrass capital of the world.” But one question was left hanging?
For how much longer, since the agreement making Raleigh the host city is winding down after five years.
That question has now been answered. Barring a major breakdown in negotiations, IBMA and city officials will start framing an agreement next month to keep the world’s biggest bluegrass party in Raleigh for at least a few more years.
“We love this place. We love being in Raleigh,” IBMA Executive Director Paul Schiminger said.
In an interview with Bluegrass Today, IBMA Board Chairman Joe Mullins said there’s “no reason” to leave Raleigh. But he said negotiations, which will start in about three weeks, will review what has happened in the last five years and look for ways to make improvements. That process, Mullins said, will put everything on the table.
The move to Raleigh from Nashville was greeted by some skepticism, and some professional musicians who live and work in Music City said they would stay away. But most bands, and thousands of fans embraced Raleigh in the first year. And the romance continues.
Mother Nature accidentally gave Raleigh a shot in the arm two years ago, when Hurricane Joaquin forced the entire weekend street festival and Wide Open Bluegrass festival to move indoors. Attendance was down, but the festival went off with only few glitches in the giant downtown convention center. There aren’t too many venues that can offer that kind of Plan B.
There has been some grumbling that free performances at the street festival have cut into paid attendance of the Friday and Saturday shows at the Red Hat Ampitheater, potentially cutting into a major funding stream for IBMA. But the overwhelming reaction to Raleigh has been positive.
This year, Mullins and Schiminger said, there is more music than ever before during the week-long events. And the energy level continues to grow.
So the bluegrass romance with Raleigh continues.