Bluegrass festival returns to Raleigh with music and money for the city

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Since the International Bluegrass Music Association descended on downtown Raleigh this week, the music is everywhere. (WTVD)

Since the International Bluegrass Music Association descended on downtown Raleigh this week, the music is everywhere: concerts on the patio at Jimmy V's Osteria, up and comers performing in all corners of the convention center, a slate of performances in downtown bars, and friends like Tatiana Hargraves from Durham and Allision de Groot from Boston in an impromptu jam session in City Plaza.

"It's kind of like old-times, so what preceded bluegrass," Hargraves said describing their style.

In the world of bluegrass, this is their family reunion.

"For me, the best thing about this is just getting to do this kind of thing - play music and connect with people," said de Groot.

In its five-year run in Raleigh, the bluegrass festival has become lucrative for the city.

In fact, besides a dip in attendance in 2015 - when rain forced all events indoors - economic impact from IBMA has climbed to $11.5 million.

"It is the biggest event that the city puts on and hosts," said executive vice-president of Visit Raleigh Loren Gold.

Gold helped lead the effort to lure IBMA to the city; trying to create a signature event that would put Raleigh on the radar of businesses looking for a new home.

"A lot of times business leaders are saying what's going on in the city, what are the unique events, what are the demand drivers, why would my people want to come here, live, and work?" said Gold said.

Simon Flory is in Raleigh from Fort Worth, Texas, to perform with his band Highplains Jamboree.

"We call it country bluegrass," he said.

And with just one year left on Raleigh's deal to host the bluegrass festival, ABC11 wanted Flory's take on the possibility of an extension.

"Absolutely, I think Raleigh is the perfect place for IBMA," Flory said. "I think a lot of people would agree as well, this convention center is perfect for it. Everybody is just so friendly. I mean truly. We love it!"

Gold and his team will start negotiating with IBMA in mid-October to bring the festival back to Raleigh in 2019, and they're hoping for a long-term deal.

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