Bluegrass festival organizers excited about returning to Raleigh
There were IBMA logos at the top of Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts and on the Cree Shimmer Wall across from the Red Hat Amphitheater. Photo by Jeff Reeves/WNCN
RALEIGH, N.C. -
Members of the International Bluegrass Music Association are counting down the days until they return to Raleigh following the success of this year's Wide Open Bluegrass festival.
The World of Bluegrass took over downtown starting Sept. 24, packing in thousands of fans for a week of non-stop bluegrass.
Nancy Cardwell, executive director of IBMA, said members who have attended the festival for decades told her this was the best World of Bluegrass they had ever been to.
"Exceptional music was presented, discovered and honored; there were a number of memorable moments during the week that none of us will ever forget, and we all just felt so incredibly welcomed and embraced by the Raleigh community," Cardwell said.
Raleigh stole the bluegrass spotlight this year from Nashville. Cardwell said the Music City has hosted the World of Bluegrass for the last eight years.
Raleigh is slated to host the event for the next two years, and fans who live nearby couldn't be happier.
"I love bluegrass, and to have it right here downtown, I live downtown, it is amazing. It's amazing. I love it. I just absolutely love it!" said Bellinda Black of Raleigh.
Cardwell said enthusiastic support from local bluegrass fans and musicians helped knock World of Bluegrass out of the ballpark. An unprecedented amount of press coverage and perfect weather also contributed to the festival's success.
"We couldn't be happier with how our first year in Raleigh went," Cardwell said.
Cardwell estimates the Wide Open Bluegrass concerts showed a 52 percent increase in attendance from last year.
"Locals, regional bluegrass folks, artists at all levels of their careers, the industry, and the international bluegrass community all showed up-for which I am incredibly grateful," Cardwell said.
North Carolina native Sherry Outlaw grew up listening to bluegrass. She said the festival expanded Raleigh's music scene.
"Never been to Nashville, always wanted to go, but now we're here," Outlaw said. "And it just exposes a more diverse music that people probably haven't heard in years.
"I can't keep still. And I used to clog when I was much younger, and I'm 59 now but … arthritic hip, but I still am going to move as best I can," Outlaw said with a laugh.
Jamie Katz, communications and programs manager for PineCone, a sponsor of the festival, said Raleigh really worked as IBMA's partner, and the results spoke for themselves.
"The community really came together to welcome IBMA to Raleigh," she said.
She also said the local organizing committee will reconvene in November to review suggestions and logistical improvements for next year, but no major changes are expected.
Cardwell said the work of the local committee was evident in a number of ways. There were IBMA logos at the top of Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts and on the Cree Shimmer Wall across from the Red Hat Amphitheater.
There was also a banjo slung across the shoulders of the Sir Walter Raleigh statue and World of Bluegrass coasters in restaurants.
"To say that Raleigh ‘rolled out the red carpet for us' is a bit of an understatement," Cardwell said. "It's probably more accurate to say that they rolled out the carpet, bought new furniture and built a new home for us."