MerleFest Kicks Off Today

More than 60,000 people are expected to descend on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, N.C., this week for the 13th annual MerleFest musical celebration. Running today through Sunday, the lineup features hundreds of bluegrass, folk and Americana musicians, including Doc Watson, Ralph Stanley, Jesse Winchester, Willie Nelson, Nanci Griffith, Freight Hoppers, IIIrd Tyme Out, Jim Lauderdale, Laurie Lewis, Claire Lynch, Nashville Bluegrass Band, Peter Rowan, Rhonda Vincent and Gillian Welch. The festival originated as a tribute to Doc Watson’s son, Merle Watson, who died in 1985. The first MerleFest took place in 1988 with friends of Merle Watson playing on stage in Wilkes Community College’s John A. Walker Center and on the deck of two flatbed trucks to a crowd of 4,000 people. This year, MerleFest will have 15 stages. Watson, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Tim O’Brien, Tony Rice and others will perform a “Salute to the Music of John Hartford” at 5:45 p.m. Sunday.