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How to get the most out of your MerleFest experience: tips from the staff of the Horton Hotel

MerleFest is one of our area’s most anticipated spring events, and people travel from all over the country to experience this festival. MerleFest takes place on the campus of Wilkes Community College, in Wilkesboro, NC. It is a four day event filled with music, unique retail vendors, nature walks, and more. Never heard of MerleFest? We’ll tell you all about it below. Whether you’re a seasoned festival goer or a MerleFest first-timer, we hope you enjoy learning about the festival and reading our staff’s tips on how to get the most out of your MerleFest experience.

What is MerleFest?

The festival first started in 1988, and MerleFest is named in memory of Eddy Merle Watson, Doc Watson’s son. Merle died tragically in a tractor accident at the age of 36, but was well known for being one of the best slide guitarists and flat-pickers of his time. Doc Watson himself described the festival as being a “traditional plus” festival, as it encompasses a great blend of both traditional Appalachian music and more modern folk offshoots, think Avett Brothers or Steep Canyon Rangers. Featuring 13 stages, MerleFest always has a great lineup. Plus, the money brought in from the festival goes to support Wilkes Community College, helping fund scholarships and other educational needs.

MerleFest Lodging

Many festival goers choose to camp onsite or stay in the town of Wilkesboro, NC. Others branch out, choosing to stay in either Boone or Blowing Rock, and drive into the festival each day. If you don’t plan on camping onsite at the festival, consider staying with us at the Horton Hotel for the weekend. Regardless of where you stay, we hope you have a great time and enjoy reading our staff’s tips on how to get the most out of your MerleFest experience.

Staff tips: get the most out of your MerleFest experience!

Alex – Front Desk Associate

“Don’t forget to bring a blanket! Chairs are hard to carry and keep up with, but you’ll be really happy if you have something to spread out or wrap up in.” Alex first heard about MerleFest from her friends. She’s been twice, once her freshman year of college in 2015, and again in 2016. She was most excited about seeing The Avett Brothers.

Megan – Sales & Public Relations

“Go by Mast General Store before you go. They have everything you need to help make your festival experience great. Make sure you bring a rain jacket. Trust me, if you’re in the mountains you always need a rain jacket. And don’t forget a sun hat, too. I think it’s really important to be prepared for any and every kind of weather! If you’re prepared, you’ll enjoy the festival that much more.” Megan’s been to MerleFest once, her sophomore year of college, and really wishes she’d been able to go every year since.

Fulton – Owner

“If you can, try to stand at the stage during the Hillside Album hour. Usually there’s a small area to dance, and you can get up close and personal with the musicians.” Fulton’s been to MerleFest at least 15 times over the years. One year, during the Hillside Album hour, The Waybacks performed the classic Allman Brothers album: Eat a Peach. This is one of Fulton’s most favorite albums of all times.

Denise – Owner/Operator 

“Stadium chairs. You know, the little foldable chairs that are made out of cushions and straps? Google it if you don’t know what I’m talking about! They’re perfect for this event. Easy to carry, lightweight, and comfortable.”

Luke – Assistant Kitchen Manager

“Don’t be worried about navigating the festival. They make it easy, and give you plenty of instructions. When you first get there, they’ll give you a program that spells out everything you need to know. It’s got information in it about each day, so make sure to read it! They plan this event out a year in advance, so it’s very well organized.” Luke has been going to MerleFest since the ‘90s, and has volunteered at MerleFest the past 3 years. He recommends volunteering because you work for a few hours, and then get a free day pass!

Hallie – Front Desk Associate

“…a turkey leg is a MUST.”

Susan – Server

“I second that!”

Enjoy the festival!

We hope you enjoyed these tips, and most importantly we hope you enjoy MerleFest 2019. Want to learn more about the lineup or purchase tickets? Visit the official MerleFest website for all the details! In the meantime, don’t forget to sign up for our email list to stay in the loop about all things Horton. (Think special updates and exclusive offers!)

Source: the official MerleFest website:

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