Saturday at Wide Open Bluegrass 2016 was a beautiful day full of histories, great stories about the people and instruments that created and formed bluegrass and its sound, and loads of great music, and things to do throughout the town.
A true highlight of the week was getting to hear some great stories about the Bluegrass Hall of Fame members by some actual Bluegrass Hall of Fame members. The International Bluegrass Music Museum led a session in the morning where Fred Bartenstein asked three members of the Hall of Fame – Jesse McReynolds, Tom Gray, and Larry Sparks – to share stories about the other Hall of Fame members. We were thoroughly amused as they shared events, stories, and backgrounds never heard before about true bluegrass greats.
Continuing with that theme, Tony Williamson then led a Vintage Instrument Tasting with Jack Lawrence, where they also shared histories of great history-making musicians and the instruments they used. Of course, they had some of those vintage instruments right there to see and hear, and to discover some of the details and mechanics behind the sound that has become bluegrass. Part of the tasting also involved hearing some hot jams in various styles on those instruments.
The Wide Open Bluegrass on the weekend and the business conference during the week both were a great success with so many concerts in big and small venues, talks, meetings, activities, jams, and hanging out spaces to meet and share with other people in the bluegrass industry. To make this all possible, planning goes on all year and the government of Raleigh, local businesses, local organizations, the IBMA, various Bluegrass Organizations throughout the country all pitch in to find funding and sponsors. There is also an army of volunteers that are essential to the running of the festival every year. Jessica Wilson was the volunteer coordinator and said that there were about 325 volunteers working this year who came from all over the country, and even some from Canada. A volunteer will usually do 3 shifts during the week which will add up to 12-15 hours of total time. Volunteers get free Bluegrass Ramble passes, volunteer t-shirts, free parking, and of course a chance to see lots of great music, make friends, and become a member of a community that comes together with a love for the music and people. Many of these volunteers come back every year.
This year had new Rest and Relaxation spaces added to the Street Festival portion of the Wide Open Bluegrass on the weekend, as well as many new kids activities that were available and free to the public. Many concerts were also free to the public as a result of the many sponsorships. A huge thanks to the IBMA and to all those organizations and people that make this a truly great and epoch event every year, and a thank you to Raleigh for being such wonderful hosts again. See you next year!