After being forced to take a year off due to the Covid-19 pandemic, MerleFest will return in Fall 2021. The annual eclectic musical fest will take place September 16th to 19th in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, with a first round of performers that includes Melissa Etheridge, Mavis Staples, and LeAnn Rimes.

Held over the course of three days at Wilkes Community College, the event includes appearances by Tedeschi Trucks — composed of bandleaders and partners Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks — Donna the Buffalo, Scythian, and the Waybacks. Additional artists will be announced in the coming weeks and tickets will go on sale June 10th.

With an ethos that’s open to sounds from country, bluegrass, jam-band, and folk, MerleFest tends to draw a wide range of performers. The 2019 edition included sets by Tyler Childers, Wynonna, Keb’ Mo’, Elizabeth Cook, and Sam Bush.

As per MerleFest tradition, the annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest is open for submissions until June 15th. 2020’s finalists will also compete at the 2021 MerleFest. Past winners of the contest include Gillian Welch, Tift Merritt, and Adrienne Young.

Founded in 1988 by guitarist Doc Watson and named for his son, fellow musician Eddy Merle Watson, who was killed in a tractor accident in 1985, the annual event is one of the chief fundraising efforts for Wilkes Community College Foundation, which funds scholarships, educational needs and other projects.