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Guide to MerleFest

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MerleFest Group

It is difficult to put into words what MerleFest is and what the four days around the last weekend in April are all about, but here goes….

This year we get to enjoy again what many people consider to be the best outdoor Bluegrass/ Americana music festival in the world. Held annually on the campus of Wilkes Community College (Harvard on the Yadkin, as the locals call it), the festival that began on the back of a flatbed truck in 1988 has evolved into a campus wide, multi-stage music extravaganza. The festival is held in honor of Merle Watson, the deceased son of Doc Watson who was killed in a farming accident. Merle was a devoted musician who loved to play the guitar with Doc. For more information on Merle and the history of the festival, please visit www.merlefest.org.

Read more below the break!

Light Up Downtown

Chritmas in Wilkes

Annual Light Up Downtown Celebration

Light Up DowntownLight Up Downtown is an annual celebration held in historic Downtown North Wilkesboro to usher in the holiday season. The celebration is kicked off with the lighting ceremony when the B Street Park Christmas Tree is light along with all of the holiday lights that line the town streets. Vendors gather from in and around the county to sell their goods on the streets as store owners stay open late to welcome in the crowds and to show off their holiday window displays. The celebration also features hay rides and dance performances and Santa!

 

Shopping at the festival…

There are always a few folks offering free snacks and drinks, while supplies lasts, but be sure to bring your wallet and a little cash. You are sure to find great holiday gifts in the shops or in any of the vendor booths. As you shop you may be tempted to buy a few goodies to eat. The smell of funnel cakes and fresh coffee are hard to resists. If you miss the festival don’t worry too much….you can enjoy shopping in Wilkesboro NC at any time of the year.

 

How to get there and where to park…

The festival is in the heart of Downtown North Wilkesboro and results in the closing of many of the streets, mainly Main St, 9th and 10th. The streets usually aren’t closed until about half an hour to an hour before the festivities. There is plenty of parking close to the festival most of which can be easily reached from the CBD Loop which borders the downtown area.

If you are coming from the east, I would advise you to take the NC Hwy 115 exit and turn right on 115. This will take you to NC 268, turn left on NC 268 and you will run right into the festival.

If you are coming from the west on US 421, take “421 Business” into the downtown area. This left turn is the next left after the Taco Bell. Business 421 will take you directly into the down town area. If you are tech savvy, just enter North Wilkesboro into whatever device you have and hit the road.

 

Brushy Mountain Apple Festival

bmaf2

The first Saturday in October brings the masses to North Wilkesboro for the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival. They come to town for what has become one of the largest single day arts and crafts festivals in the Southeast US. Over 160,000 people crowd the downtown streets enjoying a day of food, fellowship and downright fun.

How to get to the Apple Festival.

The festival is held on the streets of downtown North Wilkesboro, so regardless of where you are coming from, just follow the signs once you get into Wilkes County. If you are coming from the east, I would advise you to take the NC Hwy 115 exit and turn right on 115. This will take you to NC 268, turn left on NC 268 and you will run right into the festival.

If you are coming from the west on US 421, take “421 Business” into the downtown area. This left turn is the next left after the Taco Bell. Business 421 will take you directly into the down town area. If you are tech savvy, just enter North Wilkesboro into whatever device you have and hit the road.

Parking

Like most large events, parking is the challenge. The downtown area is closed off, so parking has to be in the surrounding areas. Many public and private lots are open for paid parking (the closer the parking, the higher the price). In addition, the Festival provides free shuttle service to and from parking at West Park where there is lots of free parking. Visit www.applefestival.net and click on the parking link for information on this service.

You will find a place to park, so be patient and decide if you want to walk in from paid parking or ride in from free parking. Also, a word to the wise, the neighbors around the festival are wonderful people, but they draw the line when you park in their yard or driveway, so play nice.

Food and Beverage

The Brushy Mountain Apple Festival is famous for its food selection. My wife always shows up early (7am) and enjoys a country ham biscuit or apple pie. Food is available throughout the festival grounds, so be sure to bring your festival map or pick on up the intersection of Main and 9th and do your food research ahead of time. (Nothing worse than eating something at one location only to realize that you missed out on your favorite just a block away)

Prices are reasonable and the food quality is excellent. The variety is expansive and you will find more that you want to eat than you can eat (very frustrating J). Again, research is the key to finding just what you are craving. My favorites are always the ice cream, the homemade apple pies, awesome Carolina pit cooked bar-be-que, anything with grilled peppers and onions and that really greasy slice of pizza. But whatever your personal tastes are, you will find a place to chow down and enjoy.

An honorable mention here, a local water bottling company sets up a location at the Main and 9th intersection and gives a cold, clear drink of mountain water to every festival goer. Kudos to Brushy Mountain Water and Coffee Company!!

Things to do at the Apple Festival.

Every corner brings a surprise and every street a new series of crafts to enjoy. My favorite times at the festival are watching the artisans at work. Blacksmiths, quilters, potters, wood workers and many others are hard at work and you can quietly watch or ask questions as the work their magic. Where else can you watch cane be turned into molasses or hear southern gospel singers while your child is having their face painted? To say the least, diversity reigns supreme. Take your time, get into the crowd and see what each vendor has to offer.

And don’t forget, this is a celebration of the apple harvest on the Brushy Mountains. The orchards produce some of the best apples in the nation and are available for purchase at the end of almost every street. My favorite apple is the Pink Lady, a wonderful combination of sweet and sour that leaves your mouth watering.

The festival has added a Friday night event known as the “Apple Jam” that is centered on local music. It is held in the Festival Park located on the corner of 10th and Main in downtown North Wilkesboro. The Friday night festivities begin at 6 PM, so come early, bring your chairs and enjoy some beautiful mountain music.

Suggestions

1. The crowds are large, but the people are wonderful. If you are opposed to large crowds, show up early or arrive late and you will miss the biggest crowds.

2. Do your homework ahead of time; this will save you time and lots of walking, nothing worse than backtracking at a street festival.

3. Bring something to carry your awesome purchases in. Backpacks or shoulder bags are excellent choices.

4. If you bring children, allow adequate time for them to have a blast in the children’s area. My kids always loved the sand art and face painting.

5. Wear great walking shoes. You are on streets and sidewalks the entire time and some nicely padded walking shoes will seem worth their weight in gold.

6. Dress in layers. You are in the foothills of North Carolina and as Forrest Gump said… “You never know what you’re going to get”.

7. Get a good night’s sleep the night before and bring a big bag of patience. If you get in a hurry, you will miss something pretty special or you will be very frustrated.

8. Get a bag of apples! This festival is still months away and I am already craving one of those wonderful Brushy Mountain apples.

 Leaving the Apple Festival

Because it is an all day festival, leaving is no big deal. There is no mad rush or clogged highways, so take your time, leave when you want to and enjoy the view as you go. Before you go, be sure to stop by the Festival headquarters at the intersection of 9th and Main and get your free VisitWilkesboroNC.com bumper sticker. See you there.

Shine to Wine

Shine to Wine

The Shine to Wine festival gets bigger and better each year.  The festival is held in historic downtown North Wilkesboro.  The festival includes regional wines and beer for the tasting, live music and art. The festival lasts from 12 PM – 6 PM and is free to the public.  However, if you plan on sampling the wines, a wristband must be purchased. (Proof of age is required)

Wilkes County was at one time known as the Moonshine Capital of the World and for good reason. Nowadays, the region is becoming known for it’s variety of wines.  Ideally situated with the right precipitation and temperatures, the Yadkin Valley is a perfect region to grow grapes. (Who knew, right?)  So the name, Shine to Wine is a throw-back to the old days with an eye on the future of the wine industry in our community.

Several of the downtown North Wilkesboro restaurants join in the celebration and offer a “Downtown Wine Dinner”.  Be sure to visit 6th and Main and Branciforte’s. Both of establishments offer special entrees paired with signature wines.  Reservations for this special evening is advised, so call ahead and ask them to save you a seat.  The food is always delicious and the prices are reasonable, so enjoy.

The festival always has a great band to listen to while you sample the wines.  Enjoy the distinctive sounds of some of the regions best bands as you walk the streets of North Wilkesboro.  These groups have always provided a great backdrop to the entire event.  Vendor tent hopping and wine tasting to live tunes played with true talent is a great way to pass a Saturday afternoon.

Should you attend?  If you enjoy friendly people, great music and art and a sip of the fruit of the Yadkin Valley Winegrowers, then this is a festival for you.  Check out their website for all the ins and outs and make your s plans now before all the hotel rooms fill up.  Salute!  (www.shinetowine.com)

How to get to the Shine to Wine Festival?

The Shine to Wine Festival is located in Historic Downtown North Wilkesboro.  If you are coming from the east, I would advise taking the NC Hwy 115 exit and then turn right on 115. This will take you to NC 268, turn left on NC 268 and you will run right into Downtown North Wilkesboro where festival signs and parking will be easily visible.

If you are coming from the west on US 421, take “421 Business” into the downtown area. This left turn is the next left after the Taco Bell. Business 421 will take you directly into the down town area. If you are tech savvy, just enter North Wilkesboro into whatever device you have and hit the road.


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