Wilkesboro

Wilkesboro is an interesting place for a variety of reasons. It certainly has a fascinating history. It was in this northwestern North Carolina town that Colonel Benjamin Cleveland hung Loyalist militia leaders who opposed the push for American independence. Approximately a century later, many Wilkesboro residents found themselves supporting the Union cause. Also lending to Wilkesboro’s depth on the historical side of things was the case of Tom Dula, or Tom Dooley, as he is also known. This former Confederate soldier was convicted for the murder of his fiancé and hanged in 1868. The case got a lot of publicity on the national level and grew into a folk legend. In 1958, The Kingston Trio had a hit with their ballad about the murder. One year later, the event inspired a movie starring Michael Landon as Tom Dula.

Wilkesboro, North Carolina
Wilkesboro, North Carolina

An interesting history isn’t the only reason to visit Wilkesboro North Carolina, however. The town plays host to several events throughout the year, and recreational enthusiasts should be happy to know that it offers proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Among other things, Wilkesboro is also known for its historic race track.

MerleFest

MerleFest
MerleFest

For many, Wilkesboro North Carolina is most famous for MerleFest. Founded in 1988, this renowned music festival was originally hosted by the Grammy Award-winning musician, Doc Watson (1923-2012). The festival name was inspired by Watson’s son, Merle, who passed away in 1985. MerleFest brings together a variety of musical styles and has featured a number of famous acts. Many of the artists are known to step outside of their "comfort zones," and this lends a rather unique element to the event. The last weekend in April is when MerleFest takes place. It is held on the campus of Wilkes Community College. More than 10 stages are used to accommodate all of the acts. Complementing the music performances are workshops, special children’s areas, numerous vendors, and a variety of other things, so there is plenty to keep the crowds busy. It is one of the South's most ppopular music festivals.

Brushy Mountain Apple Festival

Brushy Mountain Apple Festival
Brushy Mountain Apple Festival

Another festival that encourages people to include a Wilkesboro visit on their North Carolina vacation itineraries is the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival. Held on the first Saturday of October, this festival celebrates the nearby Brushy Mountains apple harvest. People come from all around to enjoy the festivities, which include music and dance performances. Also part of the festival’s allure are the hundreds of concession stands that specialize in food and crafts. The streets of North Wilkesboro’s business district are where everything takes place, and more than 160,000 people come to enjoy the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival every year.

North Wilkesboro Speedway

North Wilkesboro Speedway
North Wilkesboro Speedway Image: daysofthundr46 (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0

The North Wilkesboro Speedway has been called such things as "the birthplace of racing legends" and "the cradle of NASCAR." It was completed in 1946 and held its first official event in 1947. In the early days, some of the best bootleggers in the Carolinas competed in North Wilkesboro Speedway races. Among them was Junior Johnson. A local resident, Johnson developed his racing skills by hauling his father’s moonshine throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains. He eventually became one of the first superstars of NASCAR and remains a major racing figure. Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, and Dale Earnhardt are just some of the other well-known drivers who raced at the North Wilkesboro Speedway, and the list of greats goes on. Unfortunately, the last major event that the track hosted was a 1996 Winston Cup race. Jeff Gordon took that checkered flag. What will ultimately become of the North Wilkesboro Speedway remains to be seen.

Stone Mountain State Park

Stone Mountain State Park
Stone Mountain State Park Image: Edward Farr

Outdoor enthusiasts who are visiting Wilkesboro North Carolina are encouraged to keep nearby Stone Mountain State Park in mind. Beautiful scenery abounds in this park, which is named after a 600-foot granite dome. This dome, or Stone Mountain, offers some of the best rock climbing that you will find anywhere in North Carolina. If rock climbing isn’t your thing, other popular Stone Mountain State Park activities include hiking, picnicking, and brook trout fishing. Visitors can also enjoy various park exhibits and explore historic sites like the Hutchinson Homestead. A family campground with 88 sites and six backpack camping sites that require a permit can be found at Stone Mountain State Park, so visitors don’t have to leave after the sun goes down. Also of considerable interest for Stone Mountain State Park visitors is the portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway that runs along the park’s northern side. For those who might not know, the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of best scenic drives in the United States.

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