The 5 Best Bluegrass Festivals in the Country
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the twangy-jangly string-band culture of our country’s most popular roots music, look no further. From large to small, young to old, here are some of the best bluegrass festivals in the country.
By: David Hollerith
Photo By: Dave Brainard / Brainard Photo
The Bluegrass Festival Experience
Some say American bluegrass music is best enjoyed outside on warm days in the summer and autumn among friends, family and foot-stomping strangers. But Bob Cherry, editor of Cybergrass.com, says that it has become something much larger. "Bluegrass has evolved to become a participant sport," he explains. "At festivals, you'll find jammers in the parking lots, campgrounds and hallways of hotels." Here, we’ve gathered five of the best such places you can participate in the bluegrass festival experience in the country. Photo by Benko Photographics courtesy of Planet Bluegrass.
Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Telluride, Colorado
Since July 4, 1974, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival has grown into one of the largest and most popular bluegrass venues in the country. (The site hosts several annual music events, including RockyGrass, which is a year older than Telluride.) Telluride encourages its musicians to overstep traditional boundaries by mixing bluegrass with other genres and generally trying to outdo every other performer through a sheer rambunctious desire to test and innovate each year. Past performers include: Sam Bush, David Byrne, Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash, Alison Krauss, Willie Nelson, Yonder Mountain String Band and the Dixie Chicks. This photo by Benko Photographics, courtesy of Planet Bluegrass, features banjo player Bela Fleck.
World of Bluegrass in Raleigh, North Carolina
Hosted by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), the World of Bluegrass is the genre’s annual homecoming. The event features four separate events: a business conference, awards show, the Wide Open Bluegrass Music Festival and the Bluegrass ramble, a special series that showcases in bars, clubs and restaurants throughout downtown Raleigh. Photo by Dave Brainard.
3 Sisters Bluegrass Music Festival in Chattanooga, Tennessee
In early fall, locals and in-the-know visitors gather by the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga to take part in the town’s celebrated two day concert, the 3 Sisters Bluegrass Music Festival, which combines traditional bluegrass with contemporary or "new grass," inviting artists such as Sam Bush, Del McCoury and The Devil Makes Three. This photo featuring the legendary Ricky Skaggs is courtesy of 3 Sisters Festival.
MerleFest in Wilkesboro, North Carolina
First put on in 1988 by the late Grammy award-winner, Doc Watson, honoring his son, MerleFest is one of the largest music festivals in the country. Merlefest features "traditional plus," a mix of traditional and roots music that encompasses folk, blues, contemporary acoustic, country and jazz. Photo by Jacob Caudill courtesy of MerleFest.
Bill Monroe Memorial Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival in Beanblossom, Indiana
In South Indiana lies a small hill town called Beanblossom. Often referred to as bluegrass music’s mecca, it’s in Beanblossom that the longest running bluegrass festival in the world has been put on for the past 49 years. The Bill Monroe Memorial Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival is a 10-day event that hosts over 75 bluegrass bands in honor of the late and great "Father of Bluegrass." Photo courtesy of Bean Blossom Bluegrass.