Biggest Week in Bluegrass continues to evolve six years after moving to Raleigh

Raleigh, N.C. (Oct. 31, 2018) – The International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) World of Bluegrass, brought to you by Chiesi USA, and PNC presents Wide Open Bluegrass saw a combined attendance of 223,320 in their sixth year in Raleigh. This year’s festivities also generated $12.7 million in direct economic impact within Wake County, the highest single-year total yet according to figures released today by the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit Raleigh). The events held from Sept. 25-29 this year included: the three-day IBMA Business Conference and Music Expo, the International Bluegrass Music Awards Show, Bluegrass Ramble, and the two-day festival, which also included the North Carolina Pork Council’s 2018 Whole Hog Barbecue Championship.

It is important to note that the $12.7 million is a conservative estimate that does not include locals’ spending, nor does it include a multiplier of indirect or induced impacts. It represents tourism economic impact only, which is new money coming into the local economy.

World of Bluegrass has now drawn 1,080,141 total attendees and generated an estimated $61.58 million in direct economic impact over its six years in Raleigh, N.C, dating back to 2013 when the event moved from Nashville to the Oak City. That makes it the largest multi-day festival held in Raleigh each year.

IBMA Numbers Chart

Earlier this year IBMA and the Raleigh Local Organizing Committee – made up of the City of Raleigh, Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit Raleigh), PineCone—the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music and the Raleigh Convention Center – announced a three-year extension to keep the event in Raleigh, N.C. through 2021.

“This year’s IBMA World of Bluegrass was another incredible week filled with music, energy and generosity everywhere you turned in downtown Raleigh. We are delighted to see greater numbers of young musicians and fans taking part among the record number of people in attendance overall,” said IBMA Executive Director Paul Schiminger. “This week is important to the professional bluegrass community to cultivate new business and new fans. We are grateful to the City of Raleigh and Wake County, whose strong commitment is indispensable in making World of Bluegrass the signature event it is for us and the city. Thanks to our close partners with the Raleigh Local Organizing Committee, Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, Raleigh Convention Center, PineCone, our terrific sponsors including Chiesi USA and PNC and the more than 250 volunteers, we get to show the world the tremendous excitement surrounding bluegrass music.”

“This year we also saw how bluegrass music has an uncommon ability to create community,” said Schiminger. “Attendees generously donated more than $14,000 to the IBMA Trust Fund, which provides critical assistance to bluegrass professionals facing financial emergencies. Furthermore, the IBMA’s auction of a custom Martin guitar was successful in enabling us to donate the entire proceeds of $4,250 to the N.C. Disaster Relief Fund to help those impacted by Hurricane Florence. What could be better than knowing we’re already confirmed to hold World of Bluegrass in this bluegrass-loving city through 2021?”

“In its time here in Raleigh World of Bluegrass has grown into the world’s largest urban bluegrass festival and conference, and no doubt a hallmark of our city around the globe,” said Dennis Edwards, president and CEO of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit Raleigh). “Each year our hospitality community works with IBMA to provide the best possible visitor experience for World of Bluegrass attendees. We welcome them with open arms in what has become an annual ‘homecoming’ for many and strive to ensure they leave with memories of a lifetime from their visit to Raleigh, N.C.”

IBMA's impact extends beyond downtown Raleigh in other ways as well. Through the “Bluegrass in the Schools” program – funded by the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County’s Artists in the Schools program – almost 2,000 Wake County students experienced bluegrass in their schools during World of Bluegrass. Elementary school students enjoyed performances by musicians visiting North Carolina for the event, including two schools that benefited from the bilingual bluegrass of Che Apalache: Rogers Lane Elementary (where 43% of the student population speaks Spanish) and Jeffreys Grove (a Spanish immersion magnet school).

Strings students from two middle schools and one high school even participated in master classes with some of the visiting musicians – improvisation is not taught in most strings classes, but it's a central component of bluegrass, so this program provides a unique opportunity for students to be able to learn about music improvisation and to play along with professional bluegrass musicians.

"The continued success of the partnership between IBMA and the Local Organizing Committee is built on strong relations and broad community support," said William Lewis, tri-chair of the Local Organizing Committee, IBMA board member and executive director of PineCone – the local nonprofit organization that produces the music component of both the festival’s ticketed Main Stage and the free StreetFest. "And it is Raleigh's creative spirit and genuine hospitality that helped us extend IBMA's contract for three more years. We will continue to fine-tune and evolve the festival so that it keeps pace with the growing needs of an increasingly large and diverse bluegrass community."

About IBMA
IBMA – the International Bluegrass Music Association – is the professional trade organization for the global bluegrass music community. The organization’s nine-year stay in Raleigh (contracted through 2021) is the result of a partnership with Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit Raleigh), the Raleigh Convention Center, PineCone—the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, the City of Raleigh and a local organizing committee.

About the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit Raleigh)
The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit Raleigh), as the official destination marketing organization of Raleigh and Wake County, accelerates sustainable economic growth and development by increasing visitor and convention business. Raleigh, N.C./Wake County welcomes more than 16 million visitors annually whose spending tops $2.5 billion. The visitor economy supports more than 26,170 local jobs in Wake County and generates more than $250 million in state and local tax revenues, saving each Wake County household $671 in taxes annually.

About PineCone
PineCone, the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, is the largest, most active presenter of home-grown music in the state. Founded in 1984 with a mission to preserve, present and promote all forms of traditional music, dance and other folk performing arts, PineCone programs highlight and celebrate the rich and diverse musical heritage of Raleigh and the greater Piedmont region by focusing on music traditions that have been passed down informally through generations within our various cultural communities. PineCone presents more than 200 programs annually, including concerts, youth programs, participatory jams and sessions, workshops, documentary projects, a weekly radio show and more. Since 2013, PineCone has served as the official Local Host organization for the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) and its World of Bluegrass conference, and as the producers of the two-day Wide Open Bluegrass festival.

About the Raleigh Convention Center
A three-time winner of ConventionSouth's Readers' Choice Award, the Raleigh Convention Center is a bustling hub for the culture, commerce and technologies that make the Triangle one of the country's most admired regions. The modern, 500,000 sq ft, LEED Silver-certified facility includes a soaring street level lobby, an elegant, easily partitioned ballroom, a 150,000 sq ft exhibit hall and a 4,100 sq ft mezzanine as well as cutting edge tech amenities and award-winning culinary delights. Convention Center staff also operate the nearby Red Hat Amphitheater and Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, which can also be part of an event experience. For more information visit

Media Contact
Scott Peacock, Director of Public Relations and International Tourism

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