Little by little, details are coming out about World of Bluegrass, the International Bluegrass Music Association convention and festival coming to downtown Raleigh at the end of September. Wednesday afternoon found Mayor Nancy McFarlane onstage at Red Hat Amphitheater to announce further details of the event -- which even includes a barbecue festival, and you've gotta love that. See the report here.
Late Wednesday afternoon, the International Bluegrass Music Association put out a partial list of headline performers for this fall’s big Bluegrass Wide Open shindig happening in Raleigh the final weekend in September. There are some pretty big names on it, including Steve Martin, Alison Krauss and Edie Brickell (!). See details here.
RALEIGH -- North Carolina may or may not be the home of bluegrass. But for at least three years, it will be home of the World of Bluegrass.
As expected, the International Bluegrass Music Association announced on Wednesday that it will bring its weeklong convention and awards show to Raleigh for a three-year run starting in 2013. Russell Johnson and the Grass Cats opened and closed Wednesday's announcement ceremony on downtown's City Plaza by playing "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" and other bluegrass classics.
But the big moment was mayor Nancy McFarlane unveiling a banner showing Raleigh's World of Bluegrass dates. Comprising a four-day business conference, an awards show and a three-day "Bluegrass Fan Fest" with more than 60 acts, next year's Raleigh edition of IBMA will be Sept. 23-29, 2013.
The 2011 convention's events in Nashville drew a reported 16,000 total visitors, more than half from out of town. Raleigh city officials project similar figures for next year's World of Bluegrass, estimating the local economic impact at more than $9.9 million.
On Wednesday, various speakers touted the event's bottom-line potential as well as North Carolina's illustrious bluegrass history. Earl Scruggs, Red Smiley, Doc Watson and George Shuffler are among the North Carolina natives who are in the IBMA's Bluegrass Hall of Fame, and Brevard's Steep Canyon Rangers shared the IBMA's artist-of-the-year award with Steve Martin last year.
Since 2005, the IBMA's World of Bluegrass has been in Nashville, where it's one of many awards shows. Seeking a higher profile, the IBMA board has been looking to relocate the show. More than a dozen cities made overtures, with Raleigh, Nashville, Cincinnati and Louisville, Ky., emerging as major contenders.
"One thing that really sold us on Raleigh was all the options here and how compact they are," said IBMA board member Jon Weisberger. "We don't have to choose whether or not to do shows indoors or outdoors, we can do both. And the convention center, amphitheater and other venues are all right here."
The Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts complex will also be a venue, along with other downtown nightclubs and Fayetteville Street. New IBMA board member William Lewis likened World of Bluegrass to Hopscotch, the successful rock festival that happens every September in Raleigh.
"We think this will be like a bluegrass version of Hopscotch," said Lewis, who is also executive director of Raleigh-based PineCone (Piedmont Council of Traditional Music). "It's an event that will seize the synergy of downtown and engage audiences and venues beyond just music -- photographers, artists, galleries. It could be a signature event for downtown."
The city is making what is being billed as a "huge" announcement of a cultural event Wednesday -- and signs point to the International Bluegrass Music Association. City representatives could not be reached for comment Tuesday; but if all goes as expected, the IBMA will be holding its 2013 awards show and convention in Raleigh.
The IBMA awards currently reside in Nashville, site of the 2012 awards show in September. IBMA representatives have been mulling a move for some time and they came to Raleigh in March to check out the city's facilities, reportedly coming away impressed. They were scheduled to vote on the matter at a board meeting the following month. In a development that is probably not coincidental, William Lewis (executive director of Raleigh-based PineCone, the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music) was just appointed to the IBMA's board of directors.
UPDATE: A more complete story about this can be found here.