In this Issue
Where Does the Money Go?
MerleFest's Acoustic Kids 2014 Most Memorable Yet
Volunteer Spotlight - Ed Roberts
Follow MerleFest
Featured Volunteer
June 2014 Volunteer Ed Roberts
Ed Roberts

Where Does the Money Go?  


"Every year it never fails that we hear the question, 'Where does the money go that is raised at MerleFest?'" said Ted Hagaman, festival director. "In fact, staff members and volunteers alike hear this question more than once each year. And there isn't a single answer to this question because funds raised go for so many different causes for so many different organizations in addition to Wilkes Community College."


MerleFest benefits Wilkes Community College as well as around 70 non-profit, civic and college organizations each year who are involved in many areas of MerleFest before, during and after the festival.


"MerleFest has made a lasting impact on our region. But, it has also made lasting impacts here at the college through infrastructure development and improvements. MerleFest, founded in 1988 in memory of Eddy Merle Watson, began as a fundraiser to create the Garden for the Senses as part of the college's master plan," added Hagaman.  

The Garden for the Senses 


Inside Lowe's Hall
Inside Lowe's Hall

"Since that time, the festival has contributed to the construction of Alumni Hall, the Applied Technology Center in Daniel Hall, Lowe's Hall and, most recently, construction of the Automotive Technology Complex. It has also made possible major campus improvements such as the renovation of Beacon Building and the renovation and expansion of Bumgarner Gymnasium in Randolph Hall."


Going into the next few years, funds raised from MerleFest will benefit the development of a Health Sciences Center.


"Beginning with MerleFest 2014 and going through MerleFest 2018, the WCC Endowment Corporation has committed funds to help create a Health Sciences Center," said Allison Phillips, executive director of the endowment corporation. "This project includes the purchase of 13.7 acres with a 58,000 square foot building on Oakwoods Road, near the Wilkes Campus. The total project is estimated at $6,102,468. It will be a tremendous improvement for our health sciences programs. It will allow for the consolidation of all health science programs, currently located in numerous locations, into a single facility to create an integrated training environment and improve operational efficiency."


The existing building has been named Herring Hall in honor of Leonard and Rose Herring, who have been faithful supporters of Wilkes Community College for many years. The 13.7 acres of land provides space for further development if needed in the future. Herring Hall will house the nursing, dental assisting, emergency medical science, human services technology, medical assisting, nurse aide, phlebotomy, radiography and respiratory therapy programs. It will also provide office and conference space for the division dean, faculty and staff.


Indeed, MerleFest has a lasting impact on Wilkes Community College and the region. While 2014 figures are not yet available, in 2013 MerleFest had over 4,600 volunteers contribute more than 49,500 hours to help make the festival a success. The volunteer groups earned approximately $380,500 through their participation.  


"We cannot thank our MerleFest volunteer groups enough," said Lee K. Cornett, volunteer group coordinator for MerleFest. "Their efforts help to ensure a successful festival year after year, and we appreciate their time and energy so much."


Each of these groups has a mission and has its own MerleFest stories to tell. For instance, the AccessAbility Awareness Club coordinates the Flattop performances and helps with the Little Picker's Activity Tent. 



"The volunteers in this club are thrilled to be a part of MerleFest and have an opportunity to earn funds to help the club host disability awareness events that provide awareness about the need for inclusion for people with differing abilities," explained Sherry Thompson, director of AccessAbility Services. "Using our funds earned at MerleFest, we have been able to have nationally and internationally acclaimed motivational speakers who have inspired students with their success. This past year, we hosted Bobby McMullen, known as one of the top nine risk takers in the world. He is a mountain bike racer and Paralympic alpine skier who happens to be legally blind. Also, volunteering at Merlefest is like a homecoming for us as former students and current students and their family members come together for the purpose of providing fun activities for the kids and their families." 


Another group that is faithful to work at MerleFest every year is the Delta Kappa Gamma Society, a group that promotes professional and personal growth of women educators and excellence in education. DKG has been a volunteer organization at MerleFest since 2005. Sharon Guenther, president of the Wilkes Chapter, said her group had 40 volunteers who worked a total of 212 hours during MerleFest 2014.


"The monies raised by DKG at MerleFest are put into educational scholarships. One is a scholarship to the New Century Scholars Program for sixth grade students to attend WCC. Another is for someone working in the school system to use toward a degree to become a teacher. We are honored to be a part of this great festival that benefits Wilkes Community College and the community at large."


Culinary Students at meat market in France
Culinary Students at
meat market in France

MerleFest enables WCC culinary students to study in France. WCC Culinary students work diligently for days preparing for and serving at MerleFest because they know their hard work will reap great rewards. The Culinary Arts program uses MerleFest as a learning tool in addition to being a fundraiser for students to take a seven-day trip to France, considered by many the culinary center of the world. The students raise money by operating three separate food booths at MerleFest, offering a baked goods, a hamburgers and hot foods/salads.


"Our first- and second-year culinary students are involved in this educational opportunity at MerleFest. Each group is given a booth and treats it like a business," says Kimrey Jordan, lead instructor for Culinary Arts. "This is a journey into entrepreneurship for these students. They must do a business forecast. The first year students start with a hamburger booth and speak with second year students to determine ways to improve upon last year's business forecast. And, they man the booths and attend to customers. The festival gives students a practical demonstration of food production for a true customer base. It prepares them to become small business owners themselves."


Students who participate in the MerleFest food booths receive a scholarship based on the profit of the booth they operate. However, students must work two MerleFest events to earn this scholarship. The students may use the scholarship monies for tuition or for the annual educational trip to France offered to second-year culinary students.


"I can tell you that most of our students choose to use their scholarship funds for the trip to France," says Jordan. "This trip is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these students. They get to take part in tours of famous restaurants and meet world-renowned chefs Alain Ducasse, Michel Rostang, Jean-Louis Nomicos and Christophe Moret. I don't know of any other community college in the state that offers this kind of opportunity to its students. We had one student who used his scholarship to take a specialty course at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America where he studied making chocolates and candies. Another student used her scholarship to return to Wilkes and get credits towards an advanced degree."


Another group that works diligently at MerleFest every year is Herbert Bell Shaw Lodge. Nelson Martin heads up this volunteer group. The men of the group oversee site clean-up during the festival. The ladies group, Light of the Foothills Eastern Stars, oversees the Festival Check-In Lot. Nelson and his crew arrive early each morning and stays late each night during the festival. Martin explained that the monies his group raises during the festival help local families with unforeseen family emergencies.


Cathy Kolstad, with the Women's Service League of Wilkes, has volunteered for MerleFest for over 25 years. Her group manages the sales of the MerleFest merchandise. Her organization gives all their monies back to Wilkes County, awarding scholarships, helping the local cub scouts and girl scouts, and purchasing AEDs (automated external defibrillators) to place in the public schools.


"MerleFest is a true family affair for my family," says Kolstad. "Both of my daughters, Erin and Molly, have attended since they were babies, and now Erin volunteers with our group." Her husband Chuck helps the Rotary Club with artist merchandise sales.


Net proceeds from the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest help support the Wilkes Community College Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship. Since its inception the scholarship has awarded over $38,000 to 79 deserving students. 


Some of the volunteer organizations represented at MerleFest 2014 and their areas of responsibility were:

Boy Scout Troops 301, 325, 333, 335, 340, 343, 399, 658 - Shuttle bus and van transportation; Information Booth; Pre-paid parking; Brown Lot and Green Lot parking; Pond Road traffic management

Champion Fire Department - Blue Lot parking

Communities in Schools - Little Pickers Family Area face painting and Little Pickers Family Area afternoon shift

Cub Scout Pack 399 - R&R Tent

Delta Kappa Gamma - Flattop Lot parking

Camp E-MA-ETU Reunion Group - Reserved Seating daily cleaning

Explorers Club - Little Pickers Family Area bead art

Greater Vision Baptist Church - Volunteer Parking Lot D

Herbert Bell Shaw Lodge - Site cleanup and Festival Check-In parking

National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasia - Autograph Area

North Wilkesboro Masonic Lodge -Lucky Dollar Lot parking

North Wilkesboro Rotary Club - MerleFest Mall artist sales

Speedway Road Ruritan Club - Box Office sales, wristband distribution and cooler check

Steel Magnolias - MerleFest Gift Shop

Viking Crew, Inc. - Volunteer Check-In

WCC AccessAbility Awareness Club - Flattop (mascot raccoon) and Little Pickers Family Area management

WCC Basic Skills - Festival Check-In

WCC Clubs - WCC Beverage and Food sales

WCC Continuing Education - Festival Check In - Patron Customer Service

WCC Culinary Club - Chamber Night catering

WCC Early Childhood Development - Little Pickers Family Area

WCC Human Services Club - MerleFest Souvenirs

WCC Nursing Club - Media Room

WCC Science and Technologies Club - Artist and Staff transportation

WCC Student Government Association - Austin Stage and Chris Austin Songwriting Contest

Wilkes Acoustic Folk Society - Pickin' Place

Wilkes Chamber of Commerce - Access gates

Wilkes County Recreation Department - River's Edge Camping

Wilkes Habitat for Humanity - Overnight Storage and Lost & Found

Wilkes Vocational Services - Handicapped Parking and Transportation

Wilkesboro Volunteer Fire Department - Reserved Seating setup and breakdown

Women's Service League of Wilkes - MerleFest Gift Shop management and sales


Other volunteer groups include food vendors, service groups and others.


The WCC Endowment Corporation is in the midst of a capital campaign to benefit the Health Sciences Center. Anyone interested in contributing to the capital campaign may contact Allison Phillips, executive director of the WCC Endowment Corporation, at or 336-838-6491.


MerleFest's Acoustic Kids 2014
Most Memorable Yet 

Written by Andy May

Photos by Lauren May


Liam Purcell in Acoustic Kids
Acoustic Kids 2014's
Liam Purcell performed
on the Cabin Stage.

All-in-all, this was one of the most memorable youth showcase series that we have organized at MerleFest in our thirteen (or so) years of presenting them. We had an absolute blast! With over 70 fine young performers participating, a welcoming audience in attendance, wonderful sound and stage support, and magnificent weather to boot, MerleFest's Acoustic Kids 2014 was a delight to present.


As you may know, Acoustic Kids Showcases are not contests but rather are opportunities for young performers to show their skills to a supportive festival audience. Young musicians and dancers apply to be a part of Acoustic Kids, and I review each and every application that comes in, select the performers, and set up the showcases so that everyone can shine, whatever their level. This year, we had performers at all levels - over 70 in all - from confident beginners to state and regional champions, and the showcases were very fast-moving and exciting! Check out the Acoustic Kids FaceBook Page for pictures and videos.

Acoustic Kids Anna Rollins
Acoustic Kid Anna Rollins presented Friday's Showcase
on the Dance Stage.


Our new showcase feature, Acoustic Kids Ambassadors, brings Acoustic Kids to the main festival audience and gives a handful of our top-level performers a chance to perform on the iconic Cabin Stage. Our ambassadors this year were: The Williams Brothers (Walt and Noah), Blake Lanning, Presley Barker, Liam Purcell, Lauren Kate Hurlocker, Morgan Bullock, Kitty Amaral and John Arters. They put on a top-notch show! 


Many thanks to Lauren May for her behind-the-scenes organizing, to Larry Skipper for his unwavering support of young musicians and Acoustic Kids, to TKL World-Class Cases for sponsoring MerleFest's Acoustic Kids this year, and most of all, to the young musicians who put in the time and effort to hone their skills and then step up and share their music with everyone. As we like to say, "The music is in good hands!"

Volunteer Spotlight
June 2014 Volunteer Ed Roberts
Ed Roberts

Ed Roberts comes all the way from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, each year to volunteer at MerleFest. He has been volunteering since 2012. He retired from Parks Canada, specifically the Trent Severn Waterway and the Rideau Canal, with 30 years of service. Now he enjoys gardening, traveling and music. Ed has been driving the 875 miles to MerleFest faithfully since 2008 after his stepson mentioned wanting to see some of the artists that perform at MerleFest. While here Ed camps at either Rivers Edge Campground or the North Wilkesboro Fire Department.


One of Ed's favorite things to do during the festival is visiting with festival goers and remembering conversations they've had in the past. Ed said, "It makes us feel that we are a real part of MerleFest."


His favorite MerleFest entertainers are Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas and, of course, the late Doc Watson. "They always keep your toes tapping," he added. His favorite MerleFest was 2012 when he was able to get Doc's autograph after his last show, "Spirit of Sunday" at Creekside.


Ed told a humorous story. "While volunteering as a stage usher at the Watson Stage one year, I witnessed someone in the audience walk up to the Watson Stage with his fiddle while Vince Gill was playing. Vince acknowledged him and let him play along (no mike). It was lots of laughs!"


Ed usually volunteers each year as a stage usher at the Watson Stage. He concluded, "I have found a home away from home at MerleFest - friends at the campgrounds, festival goers and locals that I see each year when I return."


If you are interested in becoming a MerleFest volunteer, visit for details. MerleFest will begin accepting applications on October 1, 2014, for MerleFest 2015.   



April 23-26, 2015 - MerleFest 2015

MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of Eddy Merle Watson as a fundraiser for Wilkes Community College Endowment Corporation and a celebration of "traditional plus" music. Scheduled for April 23-26, 2015, the event is held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

Thank you for your support!   


From all of us here at MerleFest
and Wilkes Community College


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