WILKESBORO — Ashe County was center stage at MerleFest 2019 on the campus of Wilkes Community College, as the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce sponsored the John A. Walker Center Stage throughout the April 25-28 event.
“It gives us a lot of visibility,” said Kitty Honeycutt, executive director of the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce. “There’s 80,000 people there that already love coming to this area and love music. We feel we’ve got a lot to share with them.”
Honeycutt added the staff circulated flyers promoting Ashe County music events throughout the year.
“It’s a way to get information and Ashe County Guides in the hands of people that will use it and hopefully come up here, enjoy those things and support our members,” Honeycutt said.
The Ashe County logo was spread throughout the festival. Both entrances at the Walker Center showcased the county, while the logo was rolling across the screen on the main stage as well. Additionally, each act at the Walker Center was presented by Ashe County, according to Honeycutt.
She added that the chamber sponsors the event in part due to the partnership between Ashe County and the Wilkes Community College Foundation.
“The community college foundation is also raising the money for the expansion of the Ashe campus,” Honeycutt said. “It’s a great partnership. They’re working really hard to offer more to our community up here.”
This is the chamber’s third year at MerleFest, and their second straight sponsoring a stage. Honeycutt said the chamber continues to do so to get the Ashe County brand in view of many potential tourists.
“We had visitors come up here and mention that they’ve been to MerleFest, but they’d never been to Ashe County,” Honeycutt said. “We’ve seen first-hand direct results of these people coming into the Visitor’s Center and wanting to see what’s here.”
Additionally, the chamber also had two booths set up selling Ashe County merchandise and saw an increase in sales this year.
“We’ve seen people buying and loving Ashe County gear and wearing that home,” Honeycutt said.
She added there was a mixture of buyers, as some just liked the design of the shirt, some buyers had second homes in Ashe County, some buyers were from Ashe originally and are getting in touch with their roots and others are locals who made it a point to come visit the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce.
“It gives us the opportunity to wake people up to the idea that Ashe County is up here and we have a lot to offer,” Honeycutt said. “Word is getting out.”