Sep 27, 2023 - News

IBMA Bluegrass festival is leaving Raleigh. City leaders hatch plan to replace it

The IBMA World of Bluegrass festival has been in Raleigh since 2013. Photo: VisitRaleigh

After a decade-long run in the City of Oaks, the International Bluegrass Music Association's annual conference and World of Bluegrass festival will be leaving Raleigh after next year.

  • Yes, but: Local leaders are already crafting a plant to replace the annual gathering of bluegrass musicians with a new music festival.

Why it matters: The bluegrass festival, as it is known colloquially, has enmeshed itself into Raleigh over the past decade, becoming one of the city's marquee cultural events.

  • Over years, the festival has reliably brought tens of thousands of music lovers to fill downtown's streets. Its absence would leave a large hole in the Triangle's arts calendar.

Driving the news: IBMA, which is undergoing a leadership transition, said Wednesday that it is currently in the process of finding a new host city starting in 2025.

  • Its 2023 event kicked off Tuesday, and Raleigh will still host next year's festival.

What we're watching: Visit Raleigh, the Raleigh Convention Center and PineCone — a Raleigh-based nonprofit that promotes traditional music from North Carolina — said Wednesday they plan to launch a new, Americana-style music festival in 2025.

  • PineCone, which already organized parts of the bluegrass festival, will run the festival, which will expand beyond bluegrass to include genres like the blues, folk, funk and gospel.

It's still early, and it remains to be seen how the festival would be funded — though city leadership appears to be fully behind it, with Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin supporting the effort.

  • David Browder, executive director of PineCone, told Axios the goal is to keep the vast majority of the future festival free — "but that means the funding needs to come from somewhere."

What they're saying: "I would have loved to see IBMA stay, but another part of me thinks it's going to be really exciting" to do our festival, Browder said.

  • "Because I think we can broaden out beyond the industry definition of bluegrass and really put something together … that reflects the diversity of the city that has supported us all these years."

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