Merlefest

MerleFest is an annual homecoming of music with a traditional Appalachian Mountain vibe, multiple stages, RV options in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

Event information

Located on the Wilkes Community College campus in Wilkesboro, N.C., MerleFest is a traditional American jamboree usually offering thirteen stages and four days of music. It is a roots-based music festival promoting the traditional sounds of the Appalachian Mountain region, such as bluegrass and old-time, as well as encompassing an eclectic mix of Americana, country, blues, rock and more.

MerleFest is an ideal festival for the whole family, with so much to see and do, as well as onsite camping and RV sites. Children will love the Little Pickers Family Area or showing off their talents in one of the Acoustic Kids Showcases. There is so much going on for mini festival-goers, but musicians of all ages will love the rhythm over in the Pickin’ Place, MerleFest’s number one spot for pickin’ and grinnin’. Experience the stunning scenery on one of the nature walks available or get your music heard by some of the best songwriters in the business and sign up to the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest.

Founded in 1988, MerleFest was created as a fundraiser that honored the sounds of America, and decades later, they are still providing this top event in North Carolina to celebrate ‘music, moments, and memories.’

Tickets

There are various ticket options available for MerleFest, from general admission day passes as to tickets for festival access and camping for the full four days. MerleFest promises fun for the whole family, and kids 12 and under are free with a paying adult. Single-day admission starts around $80 with multi-day tickets reaching up to $300.

Shop early to get an impressive Early Bird discount. There are also multiple extras available, including tickets to the Late Night Jam or Back Stage Tour. If you are planning on RV camping on site during your stay, your space must be bought with a four-day pass. Ticket pricing at the gate tends to be slightly higher, so you may want to check out the festival's website and make your purchase when tickets become available.

Transportation

Driving

MerleFest is located at 1328 S. Collegiate Drive, Wilkesboro, N.C. 28697. If you are coming from the Wilkesboro side, take Exit 286B off US-421, and follow the festival signs. It takes around an hour to drive from Winston-Salem, around two hours from Charlotte and approximately four hours from Richmond, Virginia. Traffic can get a little busy at the start and end of the event, so factor in a bit of extra driving time and be prepared for a potential wait.

Parking areas

You may encounter several parking options at MerleFest. Parking for the festival is free, and there is usually lots of it. When you arrive, a volunteer will direct you to an appropriate parking spot, and show you where you can catch the nearest shuttle bus. These buses run regularly, taking you to the entrance of the festival. With regards to overnight parking, the camping purchase includes space for your RV and one vehicle.

Public Transportation

MerleFest is relatively easy to get to from the surrounding towns and cities. There is a shuttle bus that runs regularly and frequent public transport to the college campus. The nearest airport is the Piedmont Triad International Airport, which has domestic flights from Greensboro and North Carolina. Alternately, Charlotte Airport is approximately 85 miles from North Wilkesboro.

Where to stay

Onsite

MerleFest is situated in a woodland area that offers natural beauty and stunning scenery. Camping onsite usually opens a day or so before MerleFest begins, and it offers a peaceful family atmosphere. There are no electrical, sewer, or water hook-ups for on-site camping but a dump station and portable toilets are available. If you do wish to camp on the college campus, it is advised that you book at a campground nearby early as sites can fill up rather quickly.

Nearby

MerleFest’s surrounding area really gets on board with the activities, with many local campgrounds and businesses booking up for the festival. Several camping sites are located close to the MerleFest activities, with a site to suit every budget and camping style. Each of the nearby campgrounds has varied facilities, and several offer a shuttle bus service that will take you to the gates of the festival. MerleFest is one of the state's favorite events, so you will need to book early.

Getting around

You will easily be able to get around the festival grounds by walking or via the shuttle bus service, which takes people right to the gates. You may need to walk some distance, so comfortable shoes are a must. If you require any assistance regarding getting around or accessibility, persons with disabilities should contact the team at least two weeks before the event.

What to pack

Clothing

North Carolina weather tends to be varied in the spring, but typically we can expect sunny days that get a little cooler into the evening. Think layers and pack at least one warm jacket as it can definitely get quite chilly. You may also want to pack waterproof clothing, as there is always a chance of rain in April.

Gear

You will need to pack your usual camping gear for a four-night stay. It can get cold during the evening, so a three-season sleeping bag might be advised. When planning meals for your trip, remember that BBQ grills or open fires are not permitted on the college campus lots. Generators are allowed on site, but they must be turned off during the quiet period.

Health & Safety

Health and safety is MerleFest’s top priority, and before attending the festival, it is important that you read the list of rules thoroughly. In the past water, fountains have been available in the college's buildings, and bottled water has been sold by student clubs during MerleFest. Sunblock is a good item to have on hand, but some shade may also be available under some of the festival tents.

Where to eat

Cooking

If you prefer to cook for yourself, you can take your own cooler onto the site, but remember MerleFest is alcohol-free and all coolers will be checked before entering the camping area or festival grounds. Moreover, BBQ grills or open fires are not allowed. You can, however, take your own food into the festival itself, whether it is a picnic in the meadow or snacks to share with friends.

Restaurants

MerleFest is the place to go for top-quality festival food, with so many restaurants and vendors providing delicious fare. There are several spots around the campus where you can enjoy a hot meal, with profits going to the varied organizations involved. Furthermore, some of the tickets sold also include dining in their price. Alternatively, there are quite a few restaurants nearby, with a choice of everything from traditional fast food joints to more upmarket dinner options.

Vendors

Vendors are situated at The Shoppes, a little village in the center of MerleFest just by the Watson Stage. This huge tent features lots of community organizations and local businesses, providing an array of tasty treats, including Southern cuisines, Italian, American classics, and food from around the world. Plus, you can also pick up your official MerleFest memorabilia for a souvenir of the day.

Safety

Security

The MerleFest Security team is committed to ensuring that the festival goes without a hitch. All festival rules apply to the campgrounds, and security will be on hand to deal with any issues. All coolers and backpacks will be checked, and any alcohol or tobacco products are prohibited. Gas and fuel must be stored in appropriate containers inside, and all campers must have a fire extinguisher that is visible from the outside. Vehicles must also ensure that they observe the speed limit on campus.

Weather

South Carolina weather can be a little bit unpredictable, but Wilkesboro is somewhat inland any may often miss some of the coastal storms that occur later in the year. Typically expect hot days and cool nights, but there is always the chance of rain and the possibilities of a thunderstorm. The festival will continue whatever the weather, so make sure that you are prepared for any eventuality.

Medical

Wilkes EMS are onsite throughout the festival and campgrounds to provide first aid support if you require medical attention. Medical centers will be clearly located on the festival map. There are medical centers and a hospital located in nearby Wilkesboro, as well as several pharmacies.