New tourism effort targets traditional music

Caldwell County to have featured spots on Blue Ridge Music Trails
Apr. 04, 2014 @ 08:48 AM

Places in Caldwell County that host performances of traditional music are being invited to add their events to a new website targeting tourists interested in the music.

Everything from festivals to one-time performances in a coffee shop could be added to the listings ­­­— the important thing is to help people find the music, Angie Chandler, the executive director of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, said Thursday morning at the Caldwell Chamber of Commerce’s Business 4 Breakfast. As of Thursday afternoon, Sims Country Bar-B-Que on Petra Mill Road was the only Caldwell music venue listed on the site,, which formally launches next week but already is online.

The website is currently the most visible part of efforts begun last year to create the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina, this state’s counterpart to Virginia’s Crooked Road, a 333-mile-long trail through southwestern Virginia.

Tourism related to traditional music — old-time, bluegrass, country, blues, gospel and ballads — already contributes about $20.7 million a year to the state’s economy, Chandler said. Tourists who come for music also enjoy the region’s natural settings and chances to sample local food, and 99 percent say they will come back.

“You just can get a better return than that,” Chandler said.

Creating the music trails is an effort to help those tourists find venues they might otherwise never hear about — there are at least 250 music venues in the 29-county region covered by the heritage area, she said.

“Any time anyone comes to western North Carolina, they are no more than 30 miles from a venue for traditional music,” she said.

The venues range from large festivals such as Wilkesboro’s MerleFest, which already draws about 80,000 people a year from across the country and from other countries, to places like Lenoir’s Hardee’s, where there are regular jam sessions, Chandler said.

State officials hope that people who come for major, well known events such as MerleFest or the Mount Airy Fiddler’s Convention will use information provided by to plan side trips on their way, she said.

“Maybe music is the portal to get them here,” she said.

Another target is long-distance touring companies, which are always in search of new places to send their buses and motorcoaches.