1. Parking – Free (and plentiful) parking and shuttle services are available from the Blue Lot, located off Highway 268 West. The shuttle services runs non-stop during festival hours and until everyone is off campus at the end of the evening. Follow the “Blue Lot” parking signs. Also, the Blue Lot is an easy half-mile walk to the festival grounds.
2. Prepare for any weather – sunscreen, rain poncho/coat, jacket or sweatshirt (the evenings can get chilly), and most importantly, comfortable shoes.
3. Bring a blanket or lawn chair – General Admission seating is on a first-come, first-served basis and is located immediately behind the reserved seating area at the Watson Stage and stretches all the way to the trees behind the Little Pickers Family Area. To protect the grounds, all chairs and blankets must be removed daily except festival-owned “reserved seats.” Convenient on-site, overnight storage is available free of charge at the Lost & Found Tent; it is staffed by a local civic group who will be happy to assist you.
4. Plan ahead – MerleFest offers more than 80 artists performing on 13 stages throughout the four-day festival. There’s no way to see everything. Use the website (www.MerleFest.org/lineup) to prepare your “must see” agenda. Or better yet, download the FREE MerleFest mobile app before you arrive to the festival. You’ll find everything you need to know, including stage schedules, artist bios, menus of food available at the Food Tent and much more – literally in the palm of your hand!
5. Pack a Picnic – Guests are welcome to pack a cooler or basket with snacks and beverages. Just remember, only non-alcoholic beverages are allowed. The festival does not allow any glass containers. For safety and the consideration of all guests and the campus, all coolers, backpacks, bags, etc. are subject to being checked at each festival entrance.
6. Explore the Unknown – Discover a new favorite band at MerleFest. Absolutely make a list of favorites that you don’t want to miss, but roll the dice on a band or performer you’ve never heard of… You might discover a type of music you weren’t familiar with, or see the debut of an artist that will be packing major concert venues in a few years. I mean, you might be seeing the next Avett Brothers or Old Crow Medicine Show – both of whom name MerleFest as being a major factor in launching them to stardom. Old Crow Medicine Show played the festival several times years ago before becoming the Grammy winners they are today. Fan favorite, Scythian, has also garnered a lot of support during their years of performing. Other artists whose popularity has grown from their appearance at MerleFest are Chris Thile and The Avett Brothers. Tift Merritt won the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest just before her career blossomed.
7. Speaking of future stars, the talent offered at the Acoustic Kids Showcases is mind-blowing! Those kids are AMAZING! Andy May has assembled an impressive collection of musicians and performers for these sessions: Friday, Austin Stage 5:30-7 p.m.; Saturday, Dance Stage 10-11:30 a.m.; and Saturday, Mayes Pit 3:45-5:15 p.m. Several Acoustic Kids will be chosen for a special “Acoustic Kids Ambassadors” performance hosted by Andy May on the Cabin Stage, Saturday 6:20-6:45 p.m.
8. 13 Stages – Visit each stage at least once during your visit to MerleFest. Each stage offers unique programming and its own ambiance.
9. Shopping at MerleFest is awesome! Everyone should make time for The Shoppes at MerleFest and Heritage Crafts. This year MerleFest has more than 100 vendors offering unique items that you won’t find at most retail stores. And the demonstrating artisans in Heritage Crafts make one-of-a-kind creations right here at the festival. The diverse food selection at MerleFest offers something for every appetite. There’s everything from barbeque to burgers, Mexican to Asian to Italian cuisine, seafood to Southern favorites like chicken pot pie. And don’t forget to try something deliciously sweet made by the Wilkes Community College Baking & Pastry Arts students!
10. MerleFest Workshops – One of the hidden gems at MerleFest is the Mayes Pit/Cohn Auditorium in Thompson Hall where workshops are held on Friday and Saturday of the festival. Workshops may include everything from learning how to play a washboard, harmonica or piano to using a capo, storytelling, songwriting, yodeling and singing. Workshops also include performing different styles on the guitar, banjo, mandolin and fiddle. MerleFest aficionados will want to see “The History of MerleFest” workshop. “B” Townes, the festival’s first director and the person who worked closely with Doc Watson to bring MerleFest to life, presents this workshop on Friday at 2:15 p.m.
11. Lost & Found is located in The Shoppes at MerleFest. Chairs left overnight on the grounds will be taken to this area where they may be reclaimed. Please take any found items to this location so that they can be claimed by the owner.
12. The First Aid Tent is managed by the Wilkes Rescue Squad and provides minor first aid services onsite.
13. Chaplain – If in need of a helping hand during the festival, Reverend Roy Dobyns, pastor of First Baptist Church in Boone, N.C., serves as the MerleFest chaplain. Please feel free to go by the Visitors Center to contact Reverend Dobyns. During the four days of the festival, the phone number for Reverend Dobyns is 828-406-1388.
14. Visitors Center – If guests need additional assistance during the festival, the Visitors Center is located within Thompson Hall Room 138.