McCoury, Fleck Kick Off MerleFest 2001

Crowds Gather for Acoustic Music Marathon

It’s a beautiful weekend for a music festival, and the 14th annual
MerleFest — featuring artists in styles ranging from bluegrass to country to folk to blues — got underway Thursday (April 26) in Wilkesboro, N.C.

Highlights of this year’s event will include appearances by Dolly Parton, Earl Scruggs, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Ricky Skaggs, Nickel Creek, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush and David Grisman, among others. Hundreds of performers will spread out over 14 stages during the four-day gathering. In all, the festival is expected to draw around 65,000 people to the campus of Wilkes Community College, including 10,000 students from local schools and more than 2,000 volunteers who
staff the festival.

Festivities kicked off Thursday night with performances by musical adventurers Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, bluegrass favorites the Del McCoury Band, and singer and guitarist Doc Watson, father of the festival’s namesake, Merle Watson, who passed away in 1985. Created in his honor in 1988, the festival grew quickly into one of the largest in the country.

Not all the entertainment takes place on the official stages. After dark, bands like The Buttery Biscuits hold forth at the many campsites, and festival goers organize their own battle-of-the-bands.

A giant video screen and a webcast at bring a modern
contrast to the traditional music being celebrated. Check back with next week for a full report.