Wide Open Bluegrass takes to the streets

Perhaps the biggest change for World of Bluegrass in Raleigh for 2013 is the city’s scheduling of a major downtown street fair to coincide with the weekend Wide Open Bluegras Festival during IBMA week.

Wide Open Bluegrass is a ticketed event, with performances from Doyle Lawson, Steve Martin with Steep Canyon Rangers, Seldom Scene, Dailey & Vincent, Punch Brothers and many more running throughout Friday and Saturday (9/27-28/13). Shows will be held inside the Raleigh Convention Center during the day, with overlapping afternoon/evening sets in the adjacent, outdoor Red Hat Amphitheater.

Raleigh’s street fair will run concurrently, from noon to 11:00 p.m. on those same two days, but everything will be free and open to the public, except for food, refreshments, and craft items offered for sale on site. This will include four music stages, a dance tent, North Carolina craft beer garden, and the prestigious North Carolina Whole Hog BBQ championship, all held on blocked-off downtown streets.

From Raleigh’s perspective, the fair is meant to draw people to the city center, showcasing the shops, restaurants, and cultural offerings available in the vicinity. IBMA hopes to draw additional attention to their event, and benefit from the local and regional exposure for bluegrass music – and maybe win over a big bunch of new fans from the locals who wander down for the freebies.

The primary downtown promenade is Fayetteville Street, which runs five blocks from the state capitol on the north end to the Progress Energy Performing Arts Center, the site of the IBMA Awards show, to the south. All of Fayetteville Street will be closed to vehicles Friday and Saturday, with several cross streets also shut down to accommodate foot traffic and vendors. Three entertainment stages will be located on Fayetteville, one at the City Plaza, in front of the two main hotels (Marriott and Sheraton), and one each at the Fayetteville intersections with Martin and Hargett Streets.

street_fairThe city plaza stage at the south end of Fayetteville will feature national and international touring bluegrass acts, a number of regional artists, and a smattering of blues bands. Many of the slots will be filled by IBMA invited showcase artists.

At Martin Street, the focus will be on North Carolina, with vendors offering food items from around the Tarheel State for tasting and purchase. The North Carolina Department of Education is sponsoring this area, under their banner of “Got To Be NC.” Bands on the Martin stage will also be home grown.

The Hargett Street stage will have a hip, younger vibe expanding beyond the boundaries of bluegrass, serving the role of the Roots & Branches stage from Fan Fests past. This area will also feature the Arts Village, a juried, multi-disciplinary show and sale with a loose musical theme, sponsored by Artsplosure.

The last musical venue along Fayettville will be the dance tent, just before you get to the state capitol. During the daytime hours, there will be participatory instruction in square, clogging, and contra dance. After sundown, the tent will be given over to open, freestyle dance with high-energy live music.

In addition to specialty vendors, the many restaurants and bars along the fair route will have outdoor seating, and the craft beer tent will have an area where you can rest and sample local and regional brews and wines.

At the very south end of Fayetteville, between the city plaza and the Performing Arts Center, the North Carolina Whole Hog BBQ championship will start on Friday morning. The pork, beef, and chicken-meisters will cook all day, with jamming tents set up for pickers to entertain the cooks after Thursday night’s awards show and throughout the weekend.

William Lewis, IBMA Board member and Director of the Raleigh-based Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, tells us that 60-80 bands will be featured on the street over the weekend. A new wrinkle this year is that all performers at the street fair will be paid, though they may not receive their full normal fee. There will also be tents, chairs, and tables provided for artist merchandise sales, at no charge to the bands.

Raleigh Convention CenterOn Saturday, a youth music stage will be situated on the outdoor plaza at the Convention Center, just near the bronze statue of Sir Walter Raleigh. Bands performing here are being selected by the IBMA Youth Council, with media sponsorship from KIX 102.9. Members of these groups will be mostly high school and college students. Booked so far are Flatt Lonesome, The Vickie Vaughn Band, Lonesome Meadow, and The Snyder Family. There will also be youth-oriented activities along Cabarrus Street just off the plaza.

Youth Council Director Danny Clark said that they are still looking for additional sponsors, should anyone want to associate their brand with a youthful energetic audience and stage show. He also shared a few words about the Council and what they do.

“The Youth Council met and organized for the first time at the 2012 World of Bluegrass in Nashville, TN. The Council is comprised of roughly a dozen individuals. Andrew Rigney of The Rigneys was recently elected as the Chair of the Youth Council.

The goals of the council are to plan activities and youth educational tracks during IBMA’s annual events, as well as make suggestions to the IBMA Board of Directors about future programs and ideas to attract and involve youth members.”

Folks who come downtown for the street fair will also be welcomed to visit the IBMA exhibit hall, open from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Major instrument manufacturers and dozens of bluegrass-oriented businesses will have their wares displayed for all to see – and touch – throughout the day. In years past, only registered WOB attendees had access to the exhibit hall.

Of course, jamming will be permitted wherever a group of pickers can find a spot, and for the first time in many years, bluegrass lovers who don’t have a specific interest in attending the business conference can be a part of IBMA’s big week in Raleigh. From Thursday evening through Saturday night, visitors can attend the International Bluegrass Music Awards, attend the Wide Open Bluegrass Festival, and enjoy the many attractions along Fayetteville Street over the course of 48 hours.

Come on down!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.