WILKES — MerleFest organizers announced on Aug. 10 that the 2021 festival will be held Sept. 16-19, 2021, instead of in April, due to a desire to present an event to patrons that’s as “close to normal as it can be,” according to festival director, Ted Hagaman.

Also on Aug. 10, Carolina in the Fall, an annual music festival in Wilkesboro hosted by The Kruger Brothers, announced on its Facebook page that the festival will not take place in 2020 due to COVID-19 safety precautions and concerns, and it will not happen in 2021 in order to encourage patrons to support MerleFest.

“It has become clear that we can not put on an event that ensures the health and safety of our attendees, artists and volunteers,” Carolina in the Fall stated. “Additionally, we have been in communication with officials from Merlefest as they worked to make plans for their 2021 festival. The long term view of COVID-19 led them to seek a move to the fall of 2021. We recognize and appreciate the significant cultural and economic benefits that MerleFest brings to Wilkes County and have decided to forego a festival in September 2021 in favor of supporting MerleFest.“

While MerleFest 2020 was canceled on March 13 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hagaman said that organizers are “hopeful that everything will fall into place” by the time the next festival kicks off.

“We did research with medical professionals at Wake Forest Baptist, University of North Carolina and Duke University,” Hagaman said. “So many of those people feel like a vaccine is a probable thing by the year’s end, but it’s also going to take time to get that herd immunity built.”

Hagaman also noted that “a lot of expenses” for the 2020 festival had already amassed by the time the festival was canceled in March, and it was the festival’s “loyal fans and patrons” that helped festival organizers be able to hold a 2021 festival, starting “with a blank slate” instead of having to pay off debts.

MerleFest offered ticket holders three options when the 2020 event was canceled: to receive a full refund, to roll their ticket over for the 2021 festival or to donate their ticket costs to Wilkes Community College to cover expenses related to the event.

“So many MerleFest fans donated their 2020 ticket costs back to the festival, and we had a major donor state that they would match dollar-for-dollar up to $150,000 for any donations to the cause, and donors exceeded that,” Hagaman said. “We’re starting back at zero instead of in the hole.”

Following the September 2021 MerleFest, Hagaman said, it’s the organizers’ “intent” to hold the festival during the spring months.

“It’s our hope to welcome people back to the MerleFest that they know and love,” he said.

Hagaman said that while discussions with artists have started for the next MerleFest, “it’s too early to announce anything at this point.”

In a statement from MerleFest on Aug. 10, Hagaman said, “We have a reputation for providing a quality, safe and organized festival and feel this move is necessary to again deliver that type of event. We’d like to express appreciation to many for their ‘can do’ spirit in rearranging schedules and plans to accommodate this move. I’d especially like to thank the organizers of Carolina in the Fall for agreeing to forego their festival next year in order to support our festival. It truly is a team effort in our community.”

More information about Carolina in the Fall can be found online at www.facebook.com/CarolinaInTheFall.

Updates from MerleFest are published at merlefest.org as they become available.

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