Things To Do

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, internet access and a charging station. Festival guests can peruse vendor booths, check email, charge cell phones or tablets and pick up an official MerleFest t-shirt all in one spot!

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

  • Chalk Art
  • Shimmer Bottles
  • Sand Art
  • Tambourines
  • Banjos
  • Flattop masks
  • Straw windpipe
  • Mural Wall
  • Bead Necklaces
  • Face Painting

The Little Pickers Stage performances include unique acts selected with children in mind, such as scheduled “meet and greet” with Flattop. Bring a camera and get your photo made with Flattop! Entertainment will be scheduled throughout the weekend on the Little Pickers Stage.

A large Shade 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 Shade Tent when you need a little break from the MerleFest action.

Perform on a MerleFest stage in Acoustic Kids! For over 20 years, MerleFest has supported young musicians in the festival audience by providing opportunities for them to perform on festival stages in Andy May’s Acoustic Kids Showcases. These welcoming showcases allow young pickers and singers (through age 18) of any skill level to perform in a supportive environment within a professional setting. Accompanists may be any age, and bands are eligible as long as at least one featured performer is 18 years of age or younger. Click here for FAQs / eligibility details.

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 Opry-style stream of young entertainers who will warm your heart and take your breath away. You’ll come away knowing that “the music’s in good hands.”

Registration and Instructions

Registration is open February 1- March 15. Register online here.

  • Please read the Registration Instructions before filling out the registration form. It will help you!
  • With your registration, you will need to include one to three demos of pieces you want to play in the showcase. Please see the Acoustic Kids Demo Nitty-Gritty for details.
  • Acoustic Kids Showcases are provided by the festival for festival attendees. There is no charge to participate, but participation 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 12 are admitted free only if accompanied by a paying adult. However, adults may volunteer for MerleFest and gain entry into the festival on the day(s) they work. Click here to learn more about volunteering. 

Visit the Acoustic Kids website for more information about the history and philosophy behind Andy May’s youth performance showcases.

Please help us get the word out! Send this page to young musicians you know who may be interested in performing in Acoustic Kids Showcases at MerleFest.

The MerleFest Jam Camp is a unique combination of classroom instruction and small jamming and performing groups, coached by elite teachers led by “Dr. Banjo”, Pete Wernick, whose MerleFest camps date back to 1991! The location is Camp Harrison, a spacious, rustic, well-built Y Camp 12 miles south of MerleFest.

As usual, the camp has two divisions. Both will happen concurrently at Camp Harrison.

  • The Intermediate/Advanced Bluegrass Camp (April 22 – 25) for experienced jammers is taught by Pete Wernick and some of the region’s most respected musician/teachers. This camp offers daily instrument classes, performance coaching, and trio harmony instruction. Many repeat campers and new arrivals come to learn musicianship, ear skills, band teamwork, practice techniques, and more. Scholarships are available. For more information, including qualification requirements, visit the Intermediate/Advanced Bluegrass Camp web page.
  • The Basic Level Camp (April 22 – 25), led by Gilbert Nelson and his veteran team, will show the basics to get everyone playing bluegrass together in small groups. Gilbert is the Wernick Method’s most experienced jam teacher, having graduated over 1,000 jammers! You will be jamming right away, playing real bluegrass, but slower. This camp is designed to be fun and build confidence. No jamming experience is necessary. The main requirement is the ability to switch smoothly between G, C, D, and A chords. For more information, visit the Basic Level Camp web page.

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 Old Time Pickin’ Tent, Bluegrass Pickin’ Tent, and Anything Goes Pickin’ Tent.

Bring your acoustic instrument to this area hosted by the Wilkes Acoustic Folk Society and pick to your heart’s content!

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, plus the 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.

Tour Times:

  • Friday: 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
  • Saturday: 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Who is Flattop?

The big friendly raccoon you will see at MerleFest is our mascot, Flattop. Why a raccoon? Merle Watson’s band, Frosty Morn, used a raccoon 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.