Jam Camp

No jamming experience is necessary! The MerleFest Jam Camp is a unique combination of classroom and personal instruction by experienced, understanding teachers led by Pete Wernick, 9:15 A.M. - 5 P.M. daily. Jam Camp is offered the Monday through Thursday of MerleFest week. You will be grouped with others according to experience and do a lot of jamming, sometimes guided, sometimes on your own.

Pete and his experienced assistants Joan Wernick, Scott Freeman and Keith Yoder will give both group and individual pointers on instrumental technique, harmony singing and the how-to's of a variety of jam situations. If you play guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, bass or resonator guitar (Dobro), you can be part of a bluegrass jam. The ONLY two requirements are: You must be able to tune your instrument (electronic tuning devices welcome) and follow chord changes between G, C, D, and A. Fast playing is not expected, instrumental soloing is not required (simple soloing is taught), and singing is not required, though encouraged.
Jam Camp

Intermediate Track

This camp offers a unique option, specialized group instructions and jam coaching designed for experienced jammers. Many of our repeat campers and others are ready to learn more advanced band skills, ear skills, musicianship, band dynamics and backup, practice techniques, and more.

For this intermediate track, jamming experience is required, including for banjos, mandolins, fiddles and Dobro players, the ability to fake solos and willingness to sing. If you're not sure if you qualify, no problem -- you can check out the choices once you're at camp.

Attendance is limited. Several scholarships are offered, with preference given to musicians under 25 and to veterans. Deadline to apply: March 22. More info

 The Bluegrass Camp will be held at the Camp Harrison in Boomer, N.C., about 12 miles from the festival site. For accommodations and meal packages: www.campharrison.org/events.

For complete information or to sign up, please visit www.DrBanjo.com.  

Nature Walks

Come out and join local naturalist Ken Crouse of Peaceful Valley Gardens for an easy hike through the gardens and forest of the WCC Campus. Take a look at the wildflowers, trees, mushrooms and ferns that make the local ecology so unique. Learn about the folklore, edible and medicinal uses of many of our local native plants and fungi. Walk through some of the many "theme gardens" and learn the history of the WCC Gardens.

You will also learn about some of the plants that have been the inspiration for many of the traditional songs of the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

Nature walks will begin by the red Waldon Caboose and will last about one hour.

Departure Times:
Friday: 5 p.m.
Saturday morning: 10 a.m.
Saturday afternoon: 5 p.m.


Songwriters Coffee House
songwriter coffee house

The MerleFest Songwriter Showcase Coffeehouse gives aspiring songwriters a chance for their songs to be heard! Those of you who wish to participate should register Friday between 7:15- 8 p.m. At 8 p.m. we will draw for performance times.

Those selected will be placed in fifteen minute slots with two other songwriters. Those pulled from the hat will get four minutes each to perform an original song, as will the second and third place finishers in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. Ten alternates will also be drawn and worked in, if possible.

AcousticKids Showcase

Once again MerleFest is offering Acoustic Kids Showcases for young musicians.These are showcases, not contests! They are opportunities for young pickers and singers of any skill level (through age 16) to perform on the festival stage in a supportive environment. Accompanists may be any age, and bands are eligible as long as at least one featured performer is 16 years of age or younger.

As a show, the Acoustic Kids Showcases are not for kids only; they are for music lovers of all ages. Come applaud the efforts of the next generation of pickers, singers and other traditional style performers. You will be treated to an Oprystyle stream of young entertainers who will warm your heart and take your breath away. And you'll come away knowing that the future of our music is in good hands.


Application period opens February 1, 2016

Application deadline is March 21, 2016

Please help us get the word out! Send this page to any eligible young musicians you know who may be interested in applying for the Acoustic Kids Showcases. For more information about the history and philosophy behind Andy May's youth performance showcases, please visit www.acoustickids.com

Note: Participation in the Acoustic Kids Showcases does not give you or your family members free admission to the festival. Everyone over the age of 12 must purchase a ticket, and children under the age of 12 are admitted free only if accompanied by a paying adult. The festival does provide admission in exchange for volunteering, so you may be able to to obtain passes in that way. Generally, one 3-5-hour shift earns the volunteer admission to the festival for the same day. Many positions are available, but they go fast, so sign up early! There is more information here: Volunteer at MerleFest

LittlePickers Family Area

The Little Pickers Family Area offers lots of fun and games for children (and the young at heart) as well as some fine storytelling, songwriting and music! Sponsored by Burger King.

Our youth are becoming increasingly interested in the music of our region, and as an educational institution, one of our goals is to preserve and promote the heritage of our area. One key way we accomplish this is to expose young people to the world of music and instill a respect and love for the “traditional plus” music genre. The Little Pickers Stage has been expanded and seating doubled due to its popularity. Programming in this area has been expanded as well.

Creative arts enhance the activities offered in the Little Pickers Family Area. There’s even more being offered for children of all ages. Check out the Little Pickers Family Area. NOTE: Children 12 and under are admitted FREE to general admission seating areas (accompanied by adult); however, tickets are required for all seats in the reserved seating area.

little pickers

Special Activities & Crafts

The Little Pickers Family Area is full of activities for all ages! Bubble fun, pictures with Flattop, amusements, games, sand play, face painting and so much more! Look for the big tent to find all of our crafts. Crafts include:

  • Painting
  • Play Dough Art
  • Crayon Art
  • Shimmer Bottles
  • Coffee Filter Hats
  • Sand Art
  • Mural Wall
  • Bead Necklaces
  • Scrap Exchange

Special Entertainment

The Little Pickers Stage performances include unique acts selected with children in mind! Scheduled “meet and greet” with Flattop. Bring a camera and get your photo made with Flattop!

  • Flattop Photo Sessions
  • Alex and Dan Fedoryka
  • InterACTive Theatre of Jef
  • Bonnie Logan-Storytelling from Canada
  • In With The Old
  • Nature Walk with Ken Crouse
  • Steve and Ruth Smith
  • Jeni and Billy

R&R Tent

The R&R Tent, located within the Little Pickers Family Area, provides a place for guests to sit down and relax and for children, accompanied by a parent, to nap. Enjoy the R&R Tent when you need a little break from the MerleFest action.

Who is Flat Top?

The big friendly raccoon you will see at MerleFest is our mascot, Flattop. Why a raccoon? Merle Watson’s band, Frosty Morn, used one as its logo, based on his suggestion. A naming contest gave Flattop his name–a truly fitting one because of Merle and Doc’s mastery of the flattop guitar. Don’t forget to wave when you see Flattop!

Pickin' Place
The Pickin’ Place is more than a stage; it’s an entire venue devoted to pickin’ and grinnin’! Included in The Pickin’ Place are the Traditional Jammin’ Tent, Bluegrass Jammin’ Tent, Anything Goes Jammin’ Tent and Hands On Tent.


Bring your acoustic instrument to this area hosted by the Wilkes Acoustic Folk Society and pick till your heart's content!
Pickin Place
Vendor Shoppes

The Shoppes at MerleFest is a centrally located shopping village of commercial vendors, official MerleFest memorabilia, and services such as first aid, lost and found, overnight storage, and internet access. Festival guests can peruse vendor booths, check email and pick up an official MerleFest t-shirt all in one spot!

Located in the center of The Shoppes at MerleFest is a large grass area for festival-goers to enjoy a snack, visit with friends, or just enjoy the festival atmosphere.