27th annual MerleFest kicks off in Wilkesboro

WILKESBORO, N.C. – The 27th annual MerleFest music festival kicked off Thursday in Wilkesboro.

Before most attendees got in, Amy Kelly and Wendy Pratt, of Greensboro, had already laid down two tarps and several chairs in front of the main stage.  It’s a spot they hope to keep during all four days of the bluegrass and county western music festival.

“Total, I probably have 20 chairs I think we brought 10 down just now,” said Pratt.

When Pratt came to MerleFest for the first time 10 years ago, she was alone. Now she knows she’ll be joined by friends she’s met at previous shows.

Pratt calls the show affordable family fun.

“It’s very affordable if you think about how many artists you’re seeing all the concerts you’re seeing,” said Pratt.

While the adults mostly spend their time listening to music, kids are entertained by an arts tent, a dancehall or hanging out with each other on the Wilkes Community College campus.

Kelly said she believes the fact that MerleFest is an alcohol-free environment helps keep the festival family friendly.

Music continues through Sunday.

This year, concert organizers have invited 130 bands to perform, the largest gathering of musicians for a MerleFest in the event’s history.

MerleFest Director Ted Hagaman said that’s based in part on the number of requests they get from bands to be included in the fest.

Concerts begin around 9:30 a.m. and wrap up around midnight each day.

Single day tickets for the remaining days of the festival vary between $45 and $60.