Celebrating Merlefest with WildesArt Family and Friends
Great friends and inspirational contributors to WildesArt, Michele and Sarah West, frequently tell me “the mountains are calling…” – a call which they often answer. Well, this past weekend was Bill’s and my chance to listen to the mountains, and they were speaking (and singing and dancing) loud and clear.
For months, we had been planning our trip to Merlefest (the “traditional plus” music festival, founded in 1988 in memory of Doc Watson’s son, Eddy Merle Watson, in Wilkesboro, North Carolina). Much thanks goes out to the Wests for making all of the arrangements. You see, this mother and daughter duo of fine artists/writers travel north from Alabama at least three times a month, seeking inspirations in the verdant mountains, trickling streams, fragrant flora, capricious clouds of western North Carolina. Examples of their inspired artworks can be found at www.TheSarahWestGalleryofFineArt.com.
Because our friends are so familiar with this new-to-us area of western North Carolina, we began our much-awaited trip in Boone at a rustic cabin, Broadstone Cottage, which is just a hop, skip, and a jump down the road from the renown Mast Farm Inn. Our view in this river valley bordered by mountains was sublime. We spent our first evening sitting on the back porch glorying over the mountain that faced us and chatting with the West family, before the mountain air turned too chilly and we retired into the cozy cottage living room to eat homemade pie and continue catching up.
Our next day was filled with new-found treasures, including a trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway, with a stop at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, a manor with a delightful folk-art shop and a glorious vista, where we took the time to sit and drink in the view. However, the special treasure of the day, and the piece de resistance was a visit by our friends and WildesArt Visiting Artists, Valerie and David Lee Mayfield (known professionally as The Bluegrass Sweethearts). As we were sitting around chatting (again in our cozy living room), Valerie asked if we’d like for them to bring in their mandolin and guitar, so they could play a few tunes for us. In a heartbeat, we accepted her kind offer, and we were soon treated to an impromptu house concert by this melodic duo!
Saturday rolled around, and our West/Hengstenberg caravan made its way to Merlefest, for a day filled with pickin’, strummin’, singing, and dancing. Merlefest attracts over 75,000 people, and it looked as though they all showed up on Saturday. Although the weather was overcast and misty, the vibe throughout the 13 stages was one of joie de vivre. Bill and I wandered from stage to stage, taking in the talents once again of The Bluegrass Sweethearts, as well as The Kruger Brothers, Shinyribs, We Banjo 3, and The Waybacks, just to name a few. Music was flowing throughout the campus of Wilkes Community College…the notes seemed to be almost visibly floating through the breeze.
This became a true WildesArt weekend. Not only were we in the company of WildesArt Artistic Prose blogger, Michele West and constant supporter of WildesArt, Sarah West, but it was a thrill to spend time with and enjoy the talents of our recent Visiting Artists, Valerie and David Mayfield. As we were wandering among the crowd, lo and behold, we came upon another of our Visiting Artists, Jim Avett and his beautiful wife, Susie. Jim and Susie are also the parents of our Yoga for EveryBody blogger, Bonnie Avett Rini, and Scott and Seth Avett, whose lyrics have inspired many of my designs. We had a joyful chat with Jim and Susie. Jim has performed at Merlefest over the last several years, and was preparing to do two shows (gospel and folk) the following day.
In a sort of Where’s Waldo fashion, Bill and I tried to spot Merlefest photographer and an upcoming WildesArt Visiting Artist, Jim Gavenus. We found him at the foot of Spinyribs’ stage, shooting up at this funky-pop artist’s performance. More official Merlefest photos can be found on Jim’s Gavenus Photography Facebook page.
Amidst the sea of thousands, we were thrilled to find so many WildesArt friends. Valerie Mayfield summed it up when she said, “Y’all are family to us.” This sense of family, high in the mountains of western North Carolina, chimed loud and clear this weekend.
For more photos and links, visit www.WildesArt.com/Barbaras-Blog
To access the interviews and blogs mentioned above, I invite you to visit www.WildesArt.com