Small businesses in the Triangle cash in at the bluegrass festival
After being forced to take a year off due to the coronavirus pandemic, New Bern’s Lorie and David English eagerly await the hundreds of new clients they will win at the World of Bluegrass Festival in downtown Raleigh.
“It’s our best event every year,” said David English.
Together, the couple own Junkman’s Crossroads, one of the many street vendors that adorn the sidewalks along Fayetteville with their quirky, colorful and clever creations.
Lorie specializes in handbags made from recycled materials like mid-century feed and seed bags. David’s guitar-shaped kazoos made from locally sourced recycled wood are one of the most popular items hanging on their shelves.
“I get a lot of lumber from a guy in Hillsborough,” English said. “Someone will ask him to cut down a tree because it has fallen or is about to fall. He’ll go and take that tree and cut it down. He uses it for his projects, and the stuff he doesn’t use, he passes it on to me.
Just on the first day of the festival, English said they sold around a dozen kazoos, which can cost $ 35 to $ 75. But he says Saturday is still the biggest day.
“We hit half (of Friday’s mark) before the shows even opened,” he said. “It was all people meandering through.”
A few tents away was Garner’s Ndidi Kowalczwk. She owns Hothouse Posey, a handmade jewelry and home decor boutique.
Kowalczwk and her husband Doug have brought their eclectic assortment of earrings, necklaces and enamel decorations to the festival for the past seven years. She says the event kicks off its holiday season.
“October begins vacation planning and vacation income,” Kowalczwk said. “It’s always a great start to my vacation.”
On average, Kowalczwk estimates it encounters hundreds of people stopping by their tents throughout the weekend. Dozens of passers-by become customers who end up buying one of his unique pieces to take home.
Both Kowalczwks and Brits agree that bluegrass festival attendees are their target audience thanks to their penchant for the local and the rustic.
The last time the full festival was held in 2019, the City of Raleigh estimated that 218,000 people attended performances, resulting in an economic impact of $ 18.65 million.
In May, The News & Observer reported that since the festival’s move to Raleigh, the city also estimates total attendance at $ 1.3 million and that $ 80 million has been donated to Wake County as host of the event.
Due to COVID-19, last year’s festival was entirely virtual, with concerts being broadcast online rather than in person throughout downtown Raleigh. This year, the festival featured a combination of in-person performances and streaming concerts, and thousands of people filled the blocked streets of downtown.