MerleFest archives find a home at Appalachian State University and more
Festival set to honor founder Doc Watson’s 100th birthday on April 27-30, 2023, in Wilkesboro, North Carolina; Volunteer applications are open until April 15th; Acoustic Kids registration open until March 20th
2023 will mark MerleFest’s 35th festival and, as previously announced, will honor Doc Watson’s 100th birthday year through musical collaboration and commemoration over the weekend of April 27-30, 2023, in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Today, MerleFest, presented by Window World, shared another piece of celebratory news. My Name Is Merle, director Robert Kinlaw’s latest documentary, is set to premiere Saturday evening at 4:30 PM during MerleFest 2023 at the Walker Center. Chronicling the rise and continued legacy of North Carolina’s favorite community fundraiser turned renowned music festival, My Name Is Merle was produced by EducationNC. Immediately following the premiere at the festival, EdNC will be publishing the documentary online, freely accessible by all at EdNC.org and on the MerleFest YouTube channel.
“What’s amazing is that after 35 years of growth, the festival is still a volunteer-driven fundraiser. The proceeds provide education for local people, directly contributing to economic mobility in the area,” says Kinlaw. “I hope you enjoy this exploration into the fascinating traditions of North Carolina mountain music and the festival that continues them today!”
In another bit of historical news, the official MerleFest archives will be available for public viewing beginning in April 2023. The collection of audiovisual recordings as well as print photographs and other historical content was donated by the Wilkes Community College Foundation to Appalachian State University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center through the Appalachian State University Foundation in December 2020, forever cementing MerleFest’s place in the history books. The MerleFest archives primarily consist of audiovisual content of festival performances but also includes print photographs, festival programs, articles and clippings, ephemera, correspondence, and oral histories.
“We are very excited to partner with Appalachian State University to preserve this content and share it with researchers and fans of MerleFest. This has been a long time coming and with 2023 being our 35th festival, and the year we honor Doc Watson’s 100th birthday the timing couldn’t be better” says Wes Whitson, festival director. Fans are encouraged to make plans to visit the library and check out the available content starting in April of this year. A MerleFest Archives viewing station is scheduled to be installed and available for patron use by April 1st, in time for the 35th annual festival. Portions of the collection are open now. Researchers and fans can make an appointment to view the collection by going to collections.library.appstate.edu.
The festival also announced its annual MerleFest Band Competition participants. Since the festival’s inception, MerleFest has fostered and provided opportunities to up-and-coming musicians, songwriters, local and regional artists, and other unknown talents from around the country. MerleFest continues that tradition each year by inviting eight groups to not only perform during Saturday’s events but also compete for the chance to perform on the Cabin Stage in front of thousands of festival goers. This year’s Band Competition will include Ashes & Arrows (Asheville, NC), Casey Noel (Greensboro, NC), Crystal Fountains (Charlotte, NC), Colin Cutler (Greensboro, NC), The Greenliners (Asheville, NC), The Letter Show (Charleston, SC), Red Eye Gemini (Charlotte, NC), and Reedy River String Band (Greenville, SC).
“For some, performing at the nation’s largest Americana music festival is a springboard for their musical careers, while for all the participants it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” says longtime MerleFest Band Competition host, Mark Bumgarner. “The level of talent has been incredible and continues to wow the crowds each year.” The Band Competition performances will take place on MerleFest’s Plaza Stage from 11 am to 3:30 pm on Saturday, April 29th, and the winner of the coveted spot on the Cabin Stage’s Sunday lineup will be announced at 4 pm.
Tickets for MerleFest 2023—which will feature performances by Brothers of a Feather with Chris & Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes, The Avett Brothers, Maren Morris, Nickel Creek, Little Feat, Tanya Tucker and many more—are available now. For general admission passes, reserved seating, camping, parking, and more, please visit merlefest.org/purchase.
MerleFest is proud to once again welcome its 2023 Acoustic Kids Showcases with Andy May. Since 2001 the Acoustic Kids program has given young musicians of any skill level the opportunity to perform on festival stages in a supportive environment. Beginner through pro, all musicians 18 or younger are welcome to participate and share their music with the MerleFest audience. Each year, we host three 1.5-hour showcases and a half-hour Acoustic Kids Ambassadors set. Pre-registration is required to participate in Acoustic Kids and is open through March 20 (or until all showcases are full). Online registration, showcase schedules, and FAQs are available at this link, and detailed registration instructions can be found right here.
MerleFest Mobile App is ready for downloading in the app stores. Create your own schedules, set reminders for performance times, read about and follow the artists on their social media channels, listen to the official MerleFest 2023 Spotify playlist, and much more.
MerleFest volunteer applications are now open. As a volunteer, participants will receive free entry to the festival for the entire day of their shift, free parking, and shuttle, and 10% off camping at River’s Edge Campground. Most importantly, volunteers will be supporting a major fundraiser for Wilkes Community College. Please visit merlefest.org/volunteer to sign up before the April 15th deadline.