Set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina for more than three decades, MerleFest has presented a lineup of country, folk, bluegrass, and Americana musicians that have placed the event in the pantheon of must-visit music festivals. The 2020 four-day event, taking place April 23rd through 26th, will continue that tradition with appearances from Willie Nelson and Family, Alison Krauss, the Jerry Douglas Band, Jim Lauderdale, Sam Bush, Donna the Buffalo, Peter Rowan and the Free Mexican Airforce, and dozens of others. The complete lineup will be announced in the coming months.
Founded in 1988 by guitarist Doc Watson and named for his son, fellow musician Eddy Merle Watson, who was killed in a tractor accident in 1985, the annual event is one of the chief fundraising efforts for Wilkesboro, North Carolina’s Wilkes Community College Foundation, which funds scholarships, educational needs and other projects. With performances on 13 stages, MerleFest is one of the country’s biggest and most popular music festivals each year. It has also become famed for the annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. Now in its 28th year, the contest is named for the North Carolina songwriter and musician who was touring with Reba McEntire in 1991 and was among the seven members of her band killed in a San Diego plane crash. Songs in the competition are judged by a panel of Nashville music-industry professionals, under the direction of longtime volunteer Jim Lauderdale.
A first for 2020 will be “Patio at MerleFest,” a ticket upgrade that will offer comfortable seating in a covered area with views of the Watson and Cabin stages, and other one-of-a-kind amenities.
Popular on Rolling Stone
Tickets for next year’s festival are now on sale.