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Wednesday, 27 April 2011 19:14

Music & beer: Maggie Valley festival features a winning combination

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If there’s one thing Western North Carolina is rooted in, it’s music. The rolling Appalachians were the birthplace of bluegrass, and the region has long been known as a bastion of folk tradition and talent.

Along with music, another industry has recently been finding its roots in the mountains as well. With a bevy of new craft brewers popping up around the region, WNC is making a name for itself in the beer world, too.

So Maggie Valley is taking the chance to celebrate both, kicking off their festival season with the inaugural Americana Roots and Beer Festival on May 6 that celebrates both the craft brewers and down-home musicians who call the region home.

The muse for the event was the storied Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion in Bristol, Tenn., said Maggie Valley Festival Director Audrey Hager.

The idea of a roots celebration was attractive because, said Hager, it’s a concept that has a multitude of facets that can be explored in years to come.

“Roots can be a lot of different things,” said Hager. “It can be rock, it can be punk, it can be folk, it can be a lot of different things so we can go a lot of different ways.”

The festival itself is designed as a companion to the long-running Maggie Valley Trout Festival that will take place the next day, May 7. Proceeds from the beer and music event will go towards water conservation efforts in the area, which is one of the chief aims of the trout festival.

For the fête’s birth year, Hager said they decided to go with a bluegrass theme, in keeping with the region’s heritage.

As for the craft beer, it just seemed a natural fit for an event showcasing acts that are true to their roots. North Carolina is at the leading edge of the craft brewery movement, which values local, grassroots brewing efforts.

“A lot of people are getting into craft brewing as a hobby, and Asheville is really becoming a craft brewing destination, so the craft beers just seem to go along,” said Hager.

And indeed, with the weighty distinction of Beer City USA being bestowed on neighboring Asheville for two years running, the area is becoming a haven for local brewers of all kinds.

Many will be at the event, offering beer tasting and information in a special beer garden section of the festival grounds. Waynesville’s newest brewmaster, Frog Level Brewery, will be on hand, as will Asheville’s Craggie Brewing and Asheville Brewing Company. Other as-yet unnamed beer-makers from around the region will also be offering tastings of their products.

For those not alcoholically inclined, however, music-only tickets will also be on sale, granting admission to the day’s busy lineup of shows.

The main stage will see performances by Balsam Range, well-loved local bluegrass aficionados, as well as Big House Radio, winners of Asheville’s Last Band Standing competition last year.

The Harris Brothers, an Americana duo from Lenoir, will round out the main shows, but according to Hager there will be much more musical.

The second stage will give up-and-coming talent who find their roots in WNC a place to demonstrate their abilities. New acts will perform for the crowd and a panel of judges, who will both cast their votes for the top new talent. The winners will get $500 in prize money, with the possibility of more, depending on ticket sales.

Other attractions on the afternoon will be a few craft booths as well as food and drinks from area vendors. Alcohol sales will close at 10 p.m., but the music will keep pumping until 11 p.m. To encourage responsible drinking, a shuttle will run continuously from the festival grounds to various locations around Maggie Valley from 4:45 until 11:45 p.m.

Hager said that, in the run-up to the festival, response has been strong and positive from local and regional partners, and she hopes that will translate into enthusiasm from festival-goers.

“ Maggie’s never had anything like this, so we hope the community supports this event” said Hager. “We’re excited about it and I think they’ll find this is something we want to grow into a regional event going forward.”

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