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Back To School for MerleFest

WILKESBORO, NC (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Today MerleFest 2011 took over the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina and runs through Sunday, May 1st.

With over 90 artists on 14 stages, the fest's line up includes traditional, roots-oriented sounds of the Appalachian region, bluegrass, old-time music, Americana, country, "plus whatever other styles we
were in the mood to play,"explained festival host, Doc Watson.

The fest has been running since 1988 and this year's lineup represents a group of artists who have collectively earned 47 Grammy
Awards, more than 50 International Bluegrass Music Awards and four Americana Music
Association Awards, among many others

Doc Watson has been awarded the National
Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1988; received the National
Medal of the Arts from President Bill Clinton in 1997; and was awarded the Lifetime
Achievement Award by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences at the 2004
Grammy Awards show.

In addition to the line up, anyone with an instrument is encouraged to take the stage.

Members of the Wilkes Acoustic Folk Society will be there again this evening for the informal gatherings that start about dusk, welcoming people who want to listen or play — no festival ticket required.

The acoustic society volunteers will act as hosts at jamming tents during the four days of the festival.

"Our role is to welcome people in and get it started and lead it and keep the jam going," said Linda Cabe, who plays claw-hammer banjo, according to the Winston Salem Journal. "Usually, once you get it started, it goes on its own, because they're here with enthusiasm and ready to play."

"We've kind of got the best of all worlds here," said Keith Watts, a co-founder of the society while describing the festival jobs that allow the 65 or so society volunteers to play music. The festival typically has more than 700 volunteers in all, working check-ins, picking up trash and doing other jobs that keep the festival running smoothly, according to the Winston Salem Journal.

The line up for Thursday, April 28th featured performances by artists including Zac Brown Band, Randy Travis, Del McCoury Band, Scythian, Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans, Balsam Range, The Wailin’ Jennys, Johnson’s Crossroad, and The Neighbors among others.

Also planned for today was the annual Doc Watson Guitar Championship with this year’s judges including Zac Brown Band guitarists Coy Bowles and Clay Cook, as well as last year’s contest winner, Bryan McDowell.

The schedule on Friday, April 29, includes performances by The Doobie Brothers, The Emmitt-
Nershi Band, Sonny Landreth, Jerry Douglas featuring Omar Hakim and Viktor Krauss, The
Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band as well as Tony Rice and Peter Rowan, Frosty Morn (Doc Watson
and friends), Alison Brown Quartet, John Cowan Band, Josh Williams Band, The Waybacks,
Roy Book Binder, Rory Block, Paul Geremia, Pete and Joan Wernick, Corey Harris and Phil
Wiggins, Jeff and Vida, The Kruger Brothers, The Tone Blazers, Blind Boy Chocolate and the
Milk Sheiks, The Zephyr Lightning Bolts, Synder Family Band, Jim Lauderdale and Friends, and

The culmination of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest takes place on Friday; after
contest chairperson Jim Lauderdale announces the winners, the winning entries are performed on
the Cabin Stage.

The annual Merle Watson Bluegrass Banjo Contest is also held on Friday. This year’s judges include Pete Wernick, Jason Burleson and Eric Ellis, as well as last year’s contest winner, Jonathan Dillon.

Special performances on Friday include “Bluegrass Boys, A Tribute to Bill
Monroe,” featuring Mark Hembree, Bobby Hicks, Bill Keith, Peter Rowan, Roland White and
other special guests, and “Southern Filibuster – The Music of Tut Taylor” with Tut Taylor, Jerry
Douglas, Billy Cardine and other special guests.

The lineup for Saturday, April 30, includes performances by Lyle Lovett, Sam Bush, Sara
Jarosz, Crooked Still, Nashville Bluegrass Band, Donna the Buffalo, The Tony Rice Unit, Harper
and Midwest Kind, Veronika Jackson, among others.

The Hillside Album Hour,
hosted by The Waybacks, will have Joan Osborne as one of their special guests.

Midnight Jam will take place in the Walker Center and will be hosted by Casey Driessen and the Colorfools, with
opening act the Infamous Stringdusters.

Special performances on Saturday include “Docabilly”
with Doc Watson, Richard Watson, Sam Bush, T Michael Coleman and other guests, “A Tribute
to John Hartford,” featuring the John Hartford String Band and guests that include Alison
Brown, Sam Bush, Tim O’Brien, Peter Rowan and Tut Taylor, and “My Friend Merle,” hosted
by Mitch Greenhill and featuring Doc Watson, Richard Watson, Sam Bush, T Michael Coleman
and other musicians.

Sunday, May 1, will feature performances by Robert Plant and the Band of Joy (who will close
the festival with their set), along with Doc Watson and the Nashville Bluegrass Band, Tim
O’Brien, The Infamous Stringdusters, the Freight Hoppers, Alison Brown Quartet with Stuart
Duncan, Corklickers, a “Sunday Morning Blues” set with Roy Book Binder, Veronika
Jackson and Charles Welch, Jeff Little and Wayne Henderson, and Red Molly among others.

— Crystal Lynn Huntoon