The venerable MerleFest, held in April each year in Wilkesboro, NC, is set to celebrate two meaningful anniversaries at the 2023 festival. First off, this will be the 35th annual MerleFest, and this year marks what would have been the 100th birthday of Doc Watson, who launched the event in 1988 and named it in honor of his son, Merle Watson, who had died in a tragic farming accident.
What began as a small festival celebrating the roots music of the Appalachian region of North Carolina, with proceeds donated to the Wilkes Community College Foundation, has ballooned into a massive gathering attended by music lovers from all over the globe.
That has been accomplished by greatly expanding the stylistic reach of the artists who appear on stage. Bluegrass, old time, and acoustic string music is always a large part of each MerleFest, along with big names from the pop, rock, and country world. For example, this year’s headliners include The Avett Brothers, Little Feat, Marcus King, Tanya Tucker, and Maren Morris, while also boasting of bluegrass artists like Chris Jones & The Night Drivers, The Kruger Brothers, Terry Baucom’s Dukes of Drive, the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band, AJ Lee & Blue Summit, and Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas.
And that only includes artists that have been announced so far. Next week another slew of top names are set to be revealed, including a number of additional bluegrass favorites.
Over this past 35 years, MerleFest is said to have made a financial impact of $12 million on this rural part of the state, something that Doc would surely have been proud to see. Watson passed away in the spring of 2012.
Music is presented at multiple stages, so attendees are encouraged to map out their four day visit so as not to miss any of their favorite music.
MerleFest 2023 is scheduled to run April 27-30. Full details and ticket information can be found online.