WILKESBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — MerleFest and music have always been a part of Wes Whitson’s life.

“A standout event when it comes to your music festivals,” said Whitson who grew up in a musical family and by college, was a regular attendee of the festival. “All these artists who originally played the festival were here on their own dime to help raise money for the students (Wilkes Community College), and that’s still much of the vibe today.”

After years of working for the college and the festival, he’s now the new festival director.

“That family reunion feel is not going anywhere,” he said. “What people have come to expect from MerleFest is still very much alive.”

The gift of music is shared here on 12 stages, and you can bring your instrument to play yourself.

“People can bring their own instruments, and we encourage people getting together just to jam,” he said. “It’s a bucket list item for the artist to be here, too.”

Some of the big names playing this year include Emmylou Harris, Old Crow Medicine Show and Josh Turner.

For a complete list of the four-day festival and tickets, visit Merlefest.org.