Ralph Stanley, Emmylou Harris, Bela Fleck, Bruce Hornsby, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band are among the luminaries who will grace the stage at Merlefest 2003.

Ralph Stanley, Emmylou Harris, Bela Fleck, Bruce Hornsby, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band are among the luminaries who will grace the stage at Merlefest 2003. Slated for April 24-27 at the Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, N.C., the 16th annual festival will once again present a mix of traditional and contemporary roots to celebrate the late Merle Watson and his father Doc Watson, who will appear during the weekend, as will Merle's son Richard.

Stanley will appear with his band, the Clinch Mountain Boys, and Fleck with his Flecktones. Others slated to perform include the Laura Love Band, Asleep At The Wheel, Donna The Buffalo, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, the Sam Bush Band, Guy Clark, Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, the Del McCoury Band, the Whites, and Norman Blake, among many others.

Special performances will include a 75th birthday jam for renowned fiddler Vassar Clements, who will be on hand, as well as an acoustic blues showcase, a midnight jam, and "Follow Me Back to the Fold: A Tribute to Women in Bluegrass."

Last year's MerleFest saw revenues of more than $2.4 million, allowing the Wilkes Community College to contribute more than $699,000 toward scholarships, program enhancements, and other needs. Throughout its history, MerleFest has contributed more than $3.8 million to the school.

Tickets for this year's event go on sale Nov. 12 via merlefest.org and 800-343-7857 (U.S. only) or 336-838-6267 (internationally). Tickets may also be ordered by fax (336-838-6263) and mail (MerleFest, P.O. Box 120, Wilkesboro, NC 28697).

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