Nice night for sleeping with a low temp of only 55. Woke to the sweet sounds of birds chatting back and forth.
Last day of the festival today with the headliner Merle Haggard playing at 4:30pm. The whole thing will be over by 6:00.
Diana, Kate and Joe all needed to leave about 2:00pm to catch their flights to points north.
Eggs and toast provided by Charlie and Becky, with a bowl or two of granola thrown in, provided us the energy we needed to get up and get done what was needed to get done, mainly PARTY!
Soon Becky, emJay, Charlie, Diana and I were on the bus to the festival. The crowds were definitely smaller today as many had to move on to get home and back to their daily lives leaving the magic of Merlefest behind until 2015.
Here is a map showing the layout of the whole fest. The Doc and Merle Watson stage is for the headliners and over the years other stages have been added. There are also 5 indoor stages in various buildings around campus making use of some great auditoriums made for music. A great escape if it is raining or the heat gets to you – they are all air conditioned.
The sand sculpture was finished on Saturday and the artist’s sun awning was removed so all could get a good view of the piece. Just 18 tons of sand, and a little water sprayed from small bottles to moisten the sand, was all they used. Not sure what they do with the piece on Monday morning, but I think it involves a front end loader!
There are over 300 musicians, of all ages, appearing at the fest. The program they hand out when you get your wristband does a great job of describing each artist, their background and hits. emJay wanted to see Tut Taylor, a 90 year old dobro player, and his band which included his 60 year old son. Tut can still pick that dobro with the best of them!
Land of the wristbands. One for Merlefest admission, one for the YMCA.
Soon it was time to head over to the main stage to see and hear Merle Haggard. He put on quite a show. I only recognized two of his tunes but emJay was able to sing along to most. He’s had over 36 Number One hits in his long career. Over seventy years old he is still going strong and his band, The Strangers, have won the Country Music Associations Best Band Award 16 times!
He really knows how to put on a show with just the right amount of chatter, storytelling and music. Not a lot of time between songs AND not much tuning! Seems some artists are constantly tuning their guitars, sometimes between every song, but Merle and a lot of the other pros just play! Sounded good to me!
No encore with Merle. He gets up on stage, does his job, and moves on!
By the time we returned to camp, had a few muchies and some ‘secret sauce’ it was time to eat. We headed downtown tonight for dinner. The town looked like it had been abandoned with at least the 95% of the Merlfest attendees on the road back home. The festival brings in over $10 million dollars to the local community, a good incentive for the locals to put up with a few (80,000) outsiders for 4 days.
We headed to the local BBQ place, Tipton’s, which had really had it’s coolers emptied my Merlfest fans. No baked potatoes, broccoli, okra or ribs left! But we all had some type of BBQ and were licking our fingers when we left.
Unfortunately, being in NC = No Beer to go with that BBQ! A Diet Pepsi was NO substitute for washing down those hush puppies. Would never fly in Wisconsin! Our wait server told us Wilkes County is not a ‘dry county’ but the Southern Baptist Church has such a strong lobby and has supported such strong legislation that most restaurants just don’t want to deal with the hassle. Still have state controlled liquor stores down here for the hard stuff.
The greatest appearance at Merlefest was a group from the norther climes known as the Tilley Sisters. They were one of the friendliest, funniest and most down to earth groups appearing on the grounds. AND we were lucky enough to’ hookup’ with them!
The lead singer Becky was appreciated so much by the locals, they named the YMCA park after her!
A little rain during the night meant it will probably be a wet pack-up in the morning but we’ll head into town for breakfast and deal with it as it comes towards us . . . in the Merlefest vibe!