Lining Up for MusicFest ’n Sugar Grove
Friends, family and fine music — it must be the Doc & Rosa
Lee Watson MusicFest ’n Sugar Grove.
The 17th annual music festival, presented by Mast General Store, returns to the Historic Cove Creek School July 11 and 12, promising two days of fresh-picked tunes from the likes of Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Willie Watson, Chatham County Line, Charles Welch and many others.
Advance tickets go on sale Thursday, March 13, starting at $20 for Friday and $25 for Saturday, with two-day reserved seating costing $55.
“This year’s festival will sound a little different,” publicity coordinator Willard Watson III said. “We are excited about welcoming up and coming artists Chatham County Line and the 23 String Band Friday. Saturday will see the return of folk singer Willie Watson of Old Crow Medicine Show, as well as the bluegrass legends, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver.”
Performers in Friday’s lineup include He Said She Said, Ashley Heath, Spirit Fiddle, Strictly Strings, ETSU Bluegrass Band, Upright & Breathin’, The Buck Stops Here, Andy Ferrell & Oncoming Train, The New River Boys, Jeb Wooley, Liam Purcell and Mike Preslar.
Saturday’s lineup includes Spirit Fiddle, Whitetop Mountain Band, The Cockman Family, Mark Schimick’s Sassagrass Reunion, The Snyder Family, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Charles Welch, Willie Watson, Sons of Bluegrass, Willard Watson, He Said She Said, Ashley Heath, Strictly Strings, Andy Ferrell, The Buck Stops Here, The New River Boys and Upright & Breathin’.
And that selection is just for starters, as festival organizers continue to refine the list and add artists.
“The music people can expect to hear carries on Doc’s legacy of traditional-plus music,” Watson said. “Our band committee utilizes social media, record sales, word of mouth and our own ears to bring diverse and talented musicians to Sugar Grove.”
Unlike in previous years, however, MusicFest favorite The Kruger Brothers will not be performing, as the band has a prior performance engagement in Europe, according to MusicFest public relations.
Even so, Watson said, there are still plenty of performances to excite newcomers and longtime attendees alike.
“There are also many local bands who carry the torch of Watauga County music, like Carolina Crossing and Upright & Breathin’,” Watson said. “But to be honest, I am most excited about performing on The Mountain Times Pickin’ Parlor.”
As in previous years, MusicFest will feature three stages — the Main Stage, Solar Stage and Mountain Times Pickin’ Parlor, the latter of which lets audience members take the stage with the bands. Those hoping to play need only bring an instrument.
It’s but one example of something MusicFest organizers hold dear.
“The MusicFest is family; it is community,” Watson said. “That is the only way I can describe it. When you go out to Sugar Grove and sit in the shadow of that historic school, the feeling is electric in its own right, but when Doc played, it was indescribably, and now that he is gone, the festival feels like hallowed ground. That feeling carries through in the music, and you get to see people play their heart out, honoring the legacy of their hero, in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Now, don’t you think that is special?”
The last few years have been hard on MusicFest. Doc Watson died in May 2012, followed by his wife, Rosa Lee, six months later. Longtime friend Charles Welch will host a tribute to the Watsons during Saturday’s showcase. In October 2013, the festival lost two of its champions in Tommy Walsh and Amy Shelton.
“(They) were instrumental in the creation and survival of the festival and are dearly missed,” Watson said. “All of us on the MusicFest committee are doing our best to honor their legacies and deliver an innovative and entertaining festival.”
Part of that innovation means expanding the festival’s offerings to pull in additional demographics.
“This year, we are striving to appeal to the new generation of bluegrass and string music fans, with acts like Chatham County Line, 23 Strings, Willie Watson and Sons of Bluegrass, while not disappointing the die-hard traditional fans,” festival chairman J.D. Dooley said in a news release. “We’re confident that all who attend will be pleased with our diverse selection of artists.”
MusicFest was founded in 1997 as a fundraiser for the preservation of the Historic Cove Creek School. It proved exceptionally popular and continued to grow from thereon out. This year’s event will again benefit Cove Creek Preservation and Development, the nonprofit organization that manages the school.
To purchase tickets, or for more information, visit http://www.musicfestnsugargrove.org and http://www.covecreek.net.