When MerleFest volunteers check in at Flattop's Getaway, the smiling face of Ann Graves often meets them. As a member of the Flattop's team, Ann explains volunteer assignments, gives directions, and basically serves as "Mom" to the hundreds of volunteers who make MerleFest possible. Before the festival, she is also one of the voices on the phone answering hundreds of questions from excited festival-goers.
Her first MerleFest experience was about ten years ago when she worked at the bag and cooler check station for the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce. Like so many Wilkes County residents, Ann began volunteering simply as a way to help the community. Then came the love of the festival and the music. "I have really learned to appreciate the music," Ann says. "I had never been exposed to bluegrass before attending the festival. I think I like the 'old timey' music because of all the stories the songs tell."
Ann has not always been a resident of beautiful Wilkes County. She and her husband were living in Coconut Creek, Florida in 1990 when they visited friends in Charlotte and decided that North Carolina was the place for them. They took a six-month sabbatical to play and look for a place to live. An ad in the Charlotte Observer led them to land in Wilkes County, and they fell in love with the place. Ann has become a valuable member of the community not only for her work at MerleFest, but also in her position as Executive Director of the Wilkes-Alleghany Chapter of the American Red Cross. She has two grown sons who both currently live in North Carolina.
In her spare time Ann raises Arabian horses, gardens, and walks in her woods. She loves spending time with her grandchildren and helps them discover "the fun critters that live in the woods." Ann also serves on the Board of Directors of the Wilkes Heritage Museum. Of this endeavor she comments, "I love being a part of the community of people dedicated to the preservation of the Wilkes heritage."
Volunteers, when you check in at Flattop's Getaway during MerleFest 2009, look for Ann Graves. She can answer any questions you might have, and she might even become your "mom" for the weekend.