Return to An Appalachian Summer Festival

Lineup includes Beach Boys, David Grisman, Kacey Musgraves, Lisa Fischer and more

Lush greenery, pleasant temperatures, mountain splendor and a highly regarded, multi-disciplinary arts festival named one of the Top 20 Events in the Southeast —  the hallmarks of a High Country summer.

The latter — Appalachian State University’s An Appalachian Summer Festival — returns for its 31st season, packing a year’s worth of entertainment into roughly one month.

Tickets go on sale Friday, April 24, for a lineup that includes pop legends The Beach Boys, acoustic icon David Grisman, country star Kacey Musgraves, Grammy-winning vocalist Lisa Fischer, Broadway luminary Brian Stokes Mitchell and much more.

“We’re excited about this year’s programming mix, which features the blend of artistic disciplines that has always defined App Summer,” said Denise Ringler, director of ASU’s Office of Arts & Cultural Programs. “The festival strives to present a balance of artists who are well-known, along with names that may be new or unfamiliar to our audiences, but who are sure to provide memorable experiences.”

Anna Gaugert, director of marketing and public relations, agrees.

“A lot of these performers have been in the business forever and have really perfected their talent and business in general,” she said. “I think they’re going to bring a level of professionalism this year that will just wow the audience.”

As an example, she mentioned Brian Stokes Mitchell, who will perform “An Evening of Broadway” with the Winston-Salem Symphony on Saturday, July 11, at the Schaefer Center.

“He has been on Broadway forever, on film, television, and The New York Times called him ‘the last leading man on Broadway,’” Gaugert said.

David Grisman is another case in point. Nicknamed “Dawg” by a close friend, the late Jerry Garcia, Grisman developed “Dawg Music,” a unique fusion of Americana and acoustic jazz that he’ll bring to the Schaefer stage on Friday, July 17, with the David Grisman Sextet.

“He’s such a pioneer for his kind of music,” Gaugert said. “He’s a pioneer in not only bluegrass, but he has that Grateful Dead connection, so I think he can connect with younger audiences, as well as older audiences who knew him back in the day.”

Opening for Grisman and likely joining him for some numbers is the Bryan Sutton Band, led by IBMA Guitarist of the Year and Asheville native Bryan Sutton.

Living legends The Beach Boys take the Holmes Center stage Saturday, July 18, “so it’s going to be a fun time in there,” Gaugert said.

The band’s current makeup includes founding member Mike Love and Beach Boys veteran Bruce Johnston, and Gaugert said the concert would help celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary of making timeless music.

“To continue the theme of having really great musicians, we’ll also have Lisa Fischer,” Gaugert said.

Vocalist and songwriter Fischer will perform Thursday, July 23, at the Schaefer Center. Although she’s performed as a back-up singer for the likes of The Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Sting and Luther Vandross, Fischer also launched a celebrated solo career, even taking home a Grammy for Best Female R&B Performance for her hit single, “How Can I Ease the Pain.”

Postmodern Jukebox will make its App Summer debut on Friday, July 31, at the Schaefer Center. The band, essentially a swing orchestra, specializes in adapting modern pop into swing era classics.

“Scott Bradlee, the bandleader, said he wants to hear a song a certain way, and he’s going to do it that way,” Gaugert said.

Examples include Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” done doo-wop style, a jazzy version of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” a vintage take on M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” and more, available online at

Pop country star Kacey Musgraves will kick off the summer festival Saturday, June 27, at Kidd Brewer Stadium for the festival’s fan-favorite Outdoor Fireworks Concert.

“She’s really fun,” Gaugert said. “She sang with Loretta Lynn at last year’s CMAs and is a true country singer, writing her songs and treasuring the country gold kind of artists. But then she’s also really new and has good, fresh ideas. She won a Grammy for her first album, and her second album is coming out fairly soon.

“As always, the outdoor concerts are really fun, and it’s going to bring a good element to the season.

Other festival highlights include Parsons Dance on July 10 and Boone-based In/Visible Theatre’s production of “Without Words” July 24 and 25.

“With In/Visible Theatre, we thought we’d go local this year,” Gaugert said. “The play is about someone born deaf who never learned sign language and has lived on the fringes of society because of this. An interpreter finds him and tries to help him learn how to communicate. So, In/Visible will use dance, drama, sound and even silence as a way to tell the story.”

As always, the festival features a classic music component, with performances from the Broyhill Chamber Ensemble and Eastern Festival Orchestra with pianist Awadagin Pratt and harpist Amber Carpenter.

Visual arts programming returns to the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, while the 29th Rosen Outdoor Sculpture Walk will hit campus. In addition, the festival has expanded its annual Global Film Series.

According to Ringler, whether it’s in a concert hall, under a firework-lit sky or in an art gallery, Appalachian Summer’s offerings are a perfect match for the festival’s audience.

“Performing and visual artists seek out the High Country,” she said, “not only because it’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth, but because of the wonderful mix of residents and visitors that extends such a warm and enthusiastic welcome to them each summer.”


Ticket prices range between $5 and $50 and are available by visiting or by calling the Schaefer Center box office at (828) 262-4046. For more information, visit

Festivals in the High Country

Here in the High Country it seems as if there is a festival going on every single weekend. And why not? We have plenty to celebrate when it comes to our history, music, culture and food.

Make your plans today to visit the High Country during one of our many festivals and you’ll have so much fun that it will become an annual family excursion.

A short, yet incomplete, list of special events that occur each year would include Blowing Rock’s Winterfest, the Blue Ridge Wine and Food Festival, An Appalachian Festival at ASU, MerleFest, the MusicFest ‘n Sugar Grove, Woolly Worm Festival, the Valle Country Fair, High Country Bike Rally, Chetola’s Symphony by the Lake, the New River Blues Festival, SugarFest, Oktoberfest at Beech Mountain, Christmas in July and the Hickory Ridge Homestead Heritage Festival. Whew!

Keep returning to and look at its calendar page to make sure that you don’t miss out on your favorite High Country festival.

SugarFest at Sugar Mountain Resort

For the last 12 years, SugarFest marks the sweet peak of the ski season at Sugar Mountain Resort. Usually held in mid-December over three days, SugarFest annually features appearances and clinics run by Olympic medalists, demos from cutting-edge snowsport manufacturers and unique celebrations of winter and its sports.

In 2014, SugarFest will feature the 21st annual Pre-Season Ski Clinic, which is taught by Olympians, such as two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Diann Roffe. The clinic provides three days of personalized instruction on the slopes, and includes video analysis, a ski tuning seminar, lift tickets and a Saturday night banquet.

All day each day of SugarFest, ski and snowboard manufacturers roll out the newest equipment for an unmatched demo inventory. Any valid lift ticket holder with a driver's license is welcome to sample the latest ski and snowboard equipment. Participating brands during past events included Salomon, Volkl, Nordica, Burton, Head, Never Summer, K2, Atomic, Rossignol, Ride and Line.

Many SugarFest celebrations have featured 1992 Olympic Silver Medalist Paul Wylie, who performs his signature skate routines free of charge for the public.

All three days of SugarFest feature SugarFEAST, which brings all sorts of culinary delights to Sugar Mountain Resort’s lodge and events.

At SugarFest, après ski isn't a thing of the past. A fireworks display takes place during its pinnacle, and live music is offered in Sugar’s Last Run Lounge. For more information, click to or call (800) SUGAR-MT or (828) 898-4521. For lodging specials, click to

MusicFest ‘N Sugar Grove

One of the best little music festivals ‘n the country is the Doc and Rosa Lee Watson MusicFest ‘n Sugar Grove. Held on the grounds of the historic Cove Creek High School in western Watauga County, this two-day festival features the best in local, regional and national performers from the worlds of bluegrass, country, old-time and folk music.

This year’s MusicFest will be held on Friday and Saturday, July 11 and 12, with two outdoor stages plus an inside “Pickin’ Parlor” stage in the Cove Creek School.

Performers include Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Willie Watson, the Sons of Bluegrass, Chatham County Line, the Cockman Family, Mark Schimick’s Sassagrass Reunion, Charles Welch, the Lost Ridge Band, Strictly Strings, Carolina Crossing, the ETSU Pride Band, Upright and Breathing, Andy Ferrell and Oncoming Train, the New River Boys, the Snyder Family Band, and the White Top Mountain Band.

The festival will feature one-of-a-kind special musical events such as the songwriters showcase, open jams and Charles Welch’s Tribute to Doc Watson (Saturday night).

The festival also features a wide array of food and craft vendors, a playground for children, and a chance to visit the Doc and Merle Watson Folk Arts Museum inside the Cove Creek High School. The museum features photos, musical instruments and even Grammy Awards from Doc Watson’s storied career.

Two-day reserved seating tickets are $55. Friday tickets are $20 and Saturday tickets are $25.

For more information, visit or call (828) 297-2200.


What do Elvis Costello, Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss and Leon Russell all have in common? At one time or another, they’ve all performed on the Watson Stage of MerleFest.

MerleFest, or the Merle Watson Music Festival if you want to get wordy, is the annual four-day music festival held on the campus of Wilkes Community College each spring.

MerleFest was originated as a one-day musical tribute to the late guitarist Eddy “Merle” Watson in 1987. From its humble beginnings with a stage set up on a flatbed truck, it has grown into one of the premiere music festivals in the country.

Styles of music featured at MerleFest include bluegrass, old-time string band, Cajun, Celtic, gospel, blues, country, pop, rock and roll and even some jazz.

An alcohol-free event since its inception, MerleFest features fun and games for kids and even a “Little Pickers” stage.

For more information, call 1-800-343-7857.

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BOONE — The town of Boone and the Jones House Community Center announce that the annual downtown Boone Christmas Parade will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9.

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BOONE — The Watauga County Fair presented by Mountain View Speedway recently released the schedule for this year’s fair, taking place Aug. 15-19 at the Watauga County fairgrounds off of Roby Greene Road in Boone. Fair admission is $5 with the fairway rides open each day at 5 p.m.

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Arts and crafts have also remained an important part of the economic development of the High Country communities with towns and counties benefiting from the gifts and talents of our artisans and craftsmen.

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