World of Bluegrass

Wide Open Bluegrass is a week away. This downtown clock is counting down the minutes.

The Wide Open Bluegrass Countdown Clock, marking time until the festival starts.
The Wide Open Bluegrass Countdown Clock, marking time until the festival starts. jbanov@newsobserver.com

The bluegrass countdown is officially on.

New to this year’s public-art component of downtown Raleigh’s annual bluegrass festival is a countdown clock. It will count down the days, hours and seconds to the Wide Open Bluegrass outdoor street festival, Sept. 29-30, that’s part of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s annual event in Raleigh.

The clock is embedded in a banjo replica that’s 10 feet high and 4 feet wide. Two of them are hanging: one is in a light tower at City Plaza, and the other will be set up Monday in the lobby of the PNC Plaza building on Fayetteville Street.

Mixed-media sculptor Jeff Magner led the team that fabricated the pieces, with Wide Open Bluegrass sponsor PNC underwriting the total $5,000 cost. Magner’s team has been working on it for about two weeks, and the process has had its challenges.

“Saturday night at the workshop, a transformer blew and we lost power,” said Magner. “So we were running power cords everywhere and working about four hours in the dark until it came back.”

Each piece is made of wood, with marine plywood for the round shapes and solid white oak for the necks. The design replicates a Deering banjo (which is fitting, given that the Sir Walter Raleigh statue “Banjostand” is made of castoff Deering parts).

“As hard as it was to get the one at City Plaza hanging, I’d say leave it up all year,” said Landon Elmore, who worked on the project with the festival’s local organizing committee. “It’s solid wood construction and probably weighs at least 150 pounds. It should last 100 years.”

Video: Downtown Raleigh streets are filled with the sounds of Bluegrass music. Included in the annual event are arts and crafts, food, drink and lots of free music.

David Menconi: 919-829-4759, @NCDavidMenconi

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