The city’s festivities surrounding World of Bluegrass will spread west this year to Hillsborough Street.
The business district at N.C. State’s front door typically gets left out when downtown hosts major events and festivals. But not this time.
Before the banjos and fiddles descend on Fayetteville Street, they’ll spend a day on Hillsborough Street for a kickoff event, Live and Local. Bands will pack four stages for a full day of music Sept. 28 in an effort to help bluegrass fans discover more of the city.
“We saw how fabulously successful the event was last year,” said Jeff Murison, who heads the Hillsborough Street Community Service Corp. “We wanted to become part of the event and help create an activity for the week of bluegrass that kicks it off.”
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Murison added that some bluegrass fans are already traversing Hillsborough Street because the N.C. State Fairgrounds hosts RV camping. Veteran singer Peter Rowan was spotted at the Cup A Joe coffee shop during last year’s festivities.
Bluegrass and gospel groups will fill three stages all afternoon, then IBMA award nominees Darin and Brooke Aldridge will headline an evening concert at Raleigh Little Theatre’s Stephenson Amphitheatre.
“There are going to be a lot of national names in there,” said David Dean, director of programs for the Hillsborough Street group. “We’re excited to have some people involved that we might not be able to announce ahead of time.”
Street vendors and kids’ activities will be set up throughout the day, and Raleigh Brewing Company – a Hillsborough Street business – will be serving up a special Bluegrass Pale Ale. Dean said the event won’t have food vendors to encourage visitors to check out restaurants along the street.
But the festivities won’t close Hillsborough Street to traffic. Businesses have been complaining about frequent road races that make it next-to-impossible for customers to reach them, and city leaders are working on efforts to cut down on road closures there.
So the bluegrass kickoff will take place on side streets in and around Compiegne Park, an open field about a block behind Hillsborough. It’s named for Raleigh’s sister city in France, but aside from dog walkers and Frisbee players, it doesn’t see much activity.
“Compiegne Park is a great community asset, and it’s perfect for the family-fun activities that we have planned,” Murison said.
“Not having to close Hillsborough Street but still being able to attract 1,000 people over here sounds like a win-win.”