Raleigh’s World of Bluegrass does it again and sets new attendance record

The World of Bluegrass continues to be a hit, bringing the largest number of people to the International Bluegrass Music Association’s week of events since it began in Raleigh in 2013.

The sixth edition of this signature event for downtown Raleigh drew an overall estimated attendance of more than 223,000 people, according to figures released Wednesday by the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit Raleigh).

IBMA’s World of Bluegrass was Sept. 25-29 and included the IBMA business convention and related “Bluegrass Ramble” nightclub performances, Sept. 27 awards show, ticketed Red Hat Amphitheater shows and the free Wide Open Bluegrass street festival.

Even without some of the marquee names of years past, that’s up slightly from the 2017 total of 221,000-plus.

Visitor spending tied to the event was also up a bit this year to $12.7 million, a $1 million increase from 2017’s figure of $11.7 million.

In May, it was announced that the city and IBMA had agreed to extend the event’s contract for another three years, or through at least 2021.

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Since relocating from Nashville to Raleigh in 2013, the International Bluegrass Music Association has set a new attendance high every year except one.

The lone exception was 2015, when inclement weather limited attendance by forcing the Wide Open Bluegrass outdoor programming inside the Raleigh Convention Center.

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Over its six years in Raleigh, World of Bluegrass has drawn total attendance of more than 1 million people. Visitor spending associated with the event totals more than $61 million for that period.

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IBMA’s new deal with Raleigh gives the festival $265,000. Of that figure, $175,000 is from the business development fund, $60,000 from the city and $30,000 from the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau.

In return, the IBMA agreed to spend all additional funds in Wake County on local goods and services. Both the Raleigh City Council and Wake County Commissioners approved the deal.

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By the numbers

Here are attendance and estimated visitor spending since the International Bluegrass Music Association moved its convention, awards show and festival to Raleigh.

Year Total Attendance Total Direct Economic Impact
2013140,000$9.28 million
2014180,000$10.8 million
201598,000*$5.6 million
2016217,225$11.5 million
2017221,596$11.7 million
2018223,320$12.7 million
Total1,080,141$61.58 million

*Rain forced the Wide Open Bluegrass street festival inside the Raleigh Convention Center.

Source: Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau