When Raleigh, NC decided to put in a bid to host the annual IBMA Business Conference/Awards Show/Festival that had been hosted by a nonchalant Nashville for six years, the city came on strong with a proposal that included hosting the business conference in the spacioous and flexible Raleigh Convention Center, the Awards Show in the massive Duke Energy Center, and a two-day musical extravaganza which included an outdoor ticketed event in the 6,000 seat Red Hat Amphitheater and an ambitious free street festival along Fayetteville Street, running from Duke Energy Center six blocks to the State Capital at the other end. The first and second years were hugely successful, attracting a renewed membership attendance to the Business Conference and an estimated 140,000 people to Wide Open Bluegrass in the first year with 180,000 in the second. Then came tropical storm Joaquin, dumping a solid week of heavy rain on the region, and causing serious flooding in nearby South Carolina.
One of the criteria of the move to Raleigh was that, in case of rain, the outdoor component could be moved into the Raleigh Convention Center. When the contract was signed, everyone knew that, at some point, significant rainfall lay in the future. 2015 became the year. And the miracle of Raleigh occurred. The move required forty-eight hours notice. The new IBMA Executive Director Paul Schiminger, the IBMA Board, and the Raleigh Convention Center made the call, and the massive move began. On Friday morning, when we arrived at the Convention Center, the footprint had been duplicated in a below street level space inadequately called Exhibit Hall A&B, an indoor space large enough to re-create the nearly 6,000 seat Red Hat Amphitheater footprint indoors with space left over over a VIP providing food and drink for those designated.
Cindy Baucom, radio host of the syndicated Knee Deep in Bluegrass acted as emcee for the entire two days of shows in the Red Hat Amphitheater. Check this link to see whether Cindy's show is syndicated in your listening area or tune in on the Web. She introduced Blue Highway to kick off the Red Hat Amphitheater show at noon on Friday. The switch had been made.
The Dance Stage, which had stood at the foot of Fayetteville Street, just in front of the State Capital building, was the only stage remaining outdoors. Bands continued to rotate through and people went outside to join the fun. There was plenty of dancing going on. Unfortunately, since the Raleigh Convention Center is a successfully smoke free zone, smokers created a significant cloud between the front door of the Center and the dance stage. There was square, round, and two step dancing to formal callers and Cajun bands, among others. Lots of folk dancing in various guises.
IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year
IBMA Bass Player of the Year
Chairman of the IBMA Board
AKUS on the JumboTron
Cindy Baucom Kicking off Saturday
The Grass Cats Performing
In the Exhibit Hall
North Country Public Radio's Barb Heller
Tries Out an Eastman Guitar
University of Georgia Bluegrass Band
On Its Way to Kazakhstan
Mark O'Connor (The O'Connor Family)
Master's Workshop Stage
Kids on Bluegrass
Always Draws a Crowd
Master Chorale on the Main Stairs
The Kruger Brothers & the Kontras Quartet
Special Guest Branford Marsalis
The Kontras Quartet
Darin & Brooke Aldridge
Darin & Brooke with Carley Arrowood
Chris Jones & the Night Drivers
Jeanette & Johnny Williams
IBMA Entertainer of the Year
IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year
IBMA Dobro Player of the Year