April 2010 Group Volunteer Spotlight – Wilkes Acoustic Folk Society
The MerleFest Pickin’ Place is a popular gathering spot for musicians. Young, old, experienced, or beginners—all are welcome to join in the fun at these sites. The Wilkes Acoustic Folk Society (WAFS) hosts the Jammin’ tents at the Pickin’ Place. The Jammin’ tents include the Old Time Tent, the Bluegrass Tent, the Anything Goes Tent, dance floors, and the Hands-On Tent. Co-founder of the group, Keith Watts, explains, "We provide two volunteer musicians at each tent to encourage and lead jam sessions in the area. Our dancing members perform dance demos on portable dance floors near the Old Time Jammin’ tent. Visitors are encouraged to participate in the dancing as well as the music. Our non-musician volunteers manage the area, keep records, provide information to visitors, and assist with the hands-on workshops."
"Two years ago, we also began providing ‘strolling musicians’ who rove the area surrounding the Pickin’ Place. These roving musicians expand the impromptu jam sessions to include non-stage areas on the scenic Wilkes Community College campus," Keith continues.
An important aspect of MerleFest for the WAFS members is sharing the region’s musical heritage with festival visitors. This kind of activity is stated in the group’s mission which mandates member participation, sharing of cultural wealth and education. But members also learn from other musicians who visit the Pickin’ Place. "Wilkes County is blessed with a multitude of local musicians at all levels. Our participation at MerleFest has enabled us to help involve more local musicians and music enthusiasts in the festival. MerleFest enriches the community’s awareness of performing arts."
WAFS members are mindful of the fact that by practicing good guest relations they represent not only themselves, but also represent Wilkes Community College. "We are all proud of WCC, its beautiful, scenic campus, and the educational services it provides to Wilkes County. MerleFest has certainly contributed to the campus in every way. We know that MerleFest has helped provide funding for our college at every level via the WCC Endowment. The people of the surrounding foothills enjoy the permanent MerleFest facilities all year round. By operating the Pickin’ Place, we at Wilkes Acoustic Folk Society feel like we are part of a greater process that benefits our college."