Volunteers ahead in MerleFest prep
With the first band yet to strum a note, there's still a lot of activity at MerleFest.
Just ask the 700-plus volunteers needed to make the event possible.
The Mountain Times caught up with publicist Christie Hutchens Tuesday after a full day of work on the grounds.
"On a typical day like this, we have between 20 and 30 people working the campus," she said.
There's a lot to do to prepare for the big weekend.
"It ranges from a lot of work on our grounds like getting flower beds ready and getting the campus looking its best for everyone," Hutchens said, not to mention administration work.
Signage is going up this week and the tents are already out.
"As of today, we're running a little ahead in our preparations," MerleFest director Ted Hagaman said Tuesday.
That's thanks both to the weather and a successful volunteer day Saturday.
"We previously had counted a lot on inmates to come over and help us with a lot of the set up issues at the college ... because of budget cuts and changes within state government, that service is not available to us right now," he said.
Never fear. More than 50 community volunteers showed Saturday, "and they just did a super job," Hagaman said.
And that's a good thing, because last year 70,000 people showed, and this year's ticket sales are running ahead of last year.
More than 100 artists on 15 different stages plan to wow crowds this year.
According to Hutchens, there's a lot of buzz about this year's performers.
"The Zac Brown Band, we're seeing a lot of chatter about them ... Steve Martin ... people are really excited to see him on stage, Elvis Costello ... Elvis has been here before, and now he's come back with a new band (the Sugar Canes), and people are excited to see him ... and the Avett Brothers," she said. "There's always a lot of Buzz about them."
And, of course, Doc Watson himself.
What she's looking forward to the most?
"When the gate opens and everyone comes in and you see how excited everyone is," she said.
It's already starting.
"I've seen a lot more RVs and campers start to come into town," she said. "We'll really see a lot more people coming in this weekend."
The bluegrass and tradition return April 29, 30, May 1 and 2 to the campus of Wilkes Community College.
For more information or to purchase tickets, check out http://www.merlefest.org.
The Belleville Outfit
Rhonda Vincent and The Rage
Zac Brown Band
Missy Raines and the New Hip
Donna the Buffalo
Dailey and Vincent
Dierks Bentley featuring The Travelin' McCourys
Great Big Sea
The Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band
The Tony Rice Unit
Docabilly with Doc Watson, Richard Watson, Sam Bush, T. Michael Colman, Buddy Greene, Mitch Greenhill and Jeff Little
Elvis Costello and the Sugarcanes
Steve Martin performing with the Steep Canyon Rangers
The Lee Boys and The Travelin' McCourys
The Avett Brothers