MerleFest 2017: 11 Best Things We Saw at the Roots Music Festival
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The Avett Brothers perform at the 30th annual MerleFest in North Carolina. Sara Brennan

This weekend's celebration of the 30th MerleFest stirred up a North Carolina homecoming like no other. Native Tarheels and adopted sons and daughters such as the Avett Brothers, Jim Lauderdale, Tift Merritt, Mandolin Orange, Chatham County Line and the Steep Canyon Rangers poured onto the campus of Wilkes Community College to pay homage to America's biggest roots music festival, created by the legendary folk singer and guitarist Doc Watson in memory of his son Merle, an admired strummer in his own right, who died in a tractor accident at the age of 36. From the 1985 tragedy arose a tradition that this year drew 80,000 fans, who seem ready to ride the festival into the next three decades.