MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of Eddy Merle Watson as a fundraiser for Wilkes Community College and to celebrate ‘traditional plus’ music.

We are about the MUSIC, MOMENTS and MEMORIES!

The MUSIC of MerleFest was best explained by Doc himself: “When Merle and I started out we called our music ‘traditional plus’, meaning the traditional music of the Appalachian region plus whatever other styles we were in the mood to play. Since the beginning, the people of the college and I have agreed that the music of MerleFest is ‘traditional plus’.”

The MOMENTS of MerleFest are those unique experiences that only happen here. It may be two musicians you never expected to see collaborating, a shooting star over the Watson Stage during an evening’s closing set, or that one set that seems to have touched everyone in the audience.

The MEMORIES of MerleFest include the memory of Eddy Merle Watson, who we honor each day with “The Tribute to Merle” and the new memories we create each year we come together to celebrate MerleFest. Fond memories we will always cherish are those of Doc and his unending contributions to the festival, the college and the music world. At MerleFest, fans would always flock when Doc graced the stage with his amazing flat-picking style, rich baritone voice and humble presence…a presence that will always be missed.

MerleFest, considered one of the premier music festivals in the country, serves as an annual homecoming for musicians and music fans. Held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of the late Eddy Merle Watson, son of American music legend Doc Watson. MerleFest is a celebration of “traditional plus” music, a unique mix of music based on the traditional, roots-oriented sounds of the Appalachian region, including bluegrass and old-time music, and expanded to include Americana, country, blues, rock and many other styles. The festival hosts numerous artists, performing on 12 stages during the course of the four-day event. The annual event has become the primary fundraiser for the WCC Foundation, funding scholarships, capital projects, and other educational needs.

Talent Submission: MerleFest proactively selects talent through its Artist Relations Team and does not accept or respond to unsolicited talent submissions (including email, voice mail, and snail mail).

Doc Watson Student Emergency Fund

Doc Watson Student Emergency Fund logo

MerleFest is a wonderful time for our friends to show their support of Wilkes Community College. One special way to do this is to participate in the Doc Watson Student Emergency Fund. Proceeds go directly into the Doc Watson Student Emergency Fund and help students that might have otherwise had to drop out of school due to hardships. So far, 114 students have been assisted with the Doc Watson Student Emergency Fund to help in their educational journey.

Individuals may make a donation to the festival to honor or memorialize a loved one. Participants in the Doc Watson Student Emergency Fund are recognized each year in our Festival Program Guide that we distribute each day of the festival.

You can make your donation online in about 5 minutes. What a special way to honor or memorialize someone you love!