Carol and Amanda Hagood
Carol and Amanda Hagood are a mother/daughter volunteer team from Birmingham, Alabama. Amanda is a student and has lived for the last six years in North Carolina, attending college at UNC Chapel Hill, and now in Nashville, Tennessee (Music City!) where she is a graduate student in English at Vanderbilt University. Carol worked for many years at the Southern Living book company, Oxmoor House, editing quilting and other craft books. Since taking early retirement there in 2001, she has worked at her alma mater, Birmingham-Southern College, where she writes for the college magazine.
The Hagoods first learned about MerleFest about ten years ago while Carol was traveling through the South working on stories for Oxmoor House. At some point in a long car trip, she purchased a new CD to help the miles go by more pleasantly. That CD was Third Generation Blues by Doc and Richard Watson.
Carol was a graduate student at Vanderbilt in the 70's and has wonderful memories of listening to Doc and his son Merle playing at music halls in Nashville. She remembers sitting in the fourth row at the Station Inn until late in the night, taking such joy in listening to songs like The Tennessee Stud, Southbound, St. James Infirmary, and many, many more. She had heard that Merle had passed away and was glad to see that Doc and his grandson Richard were now making music together. Third Generation Blues became the soundtrack for the road trip, and she arrived home eager to share the music and the memories with her daughter Amanda. The two have many interests in common—quilting, cooking, reading, piano, flute, and beginning banjo—but most of all, listening to traditional music and traveling, especially when the destination (like Nashville…or North Carolina…or Ireland) promises the chance to hear great live music.
In an online search for more current CD's from the Watsons, Carol and Amanda discovered MerleFest and were delighted with the things they read about the warm, family-oriented gathering, celebrating the memory of Merle and the music both Hagoods loved. One of them (they can't remember which one now) said, "We should volunteer, and be a part of this!" and so the adventure of volunteering at MerleFest began.
Since then, the two have attended the festival as many years as possible, and volunteered most of those (although some years, alumni events at Carol's college and exams at Amanda's have kept them away). In their five years of volunteering they've enjoyed lots of different jobs from greeting, perimeter security, hospitality, and Little Pickers (Carol's favorite), to ushering at Creekside and the Traditional Stage (Amanda's favorite).
And the music they have heard! So many fine performers—perennial favorites like Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton, and exciting new discoveries like Scythian. Over the years, they've been fascinated with the Kruger Brothers (who are originally from Switzerland) and have enjoyed listening to their music "make itself at home in the States," as Amanda says. The Kruger Brothers' turn on the Americana stage in 2009 was, she notes, a "never-to-be-forgotten performance—the kind of thing you'd expect to hear at Carnegie Hall for its skill and unique talent." But most of all, they love listening to Doc Watson, "not only for his gifted performances but for the memories he and his friends carry of what this music has meant to generations."
Their favorite moments at MerleFest are early morning, when the day is fresh and the possibilities for who- knows-what musical adventures lie just ahead…and last light, watching the sun go down over the Watson Stage while another night of memorable performances begins. Since that first visit in high school days, Amanda has always said, "The calendar year begins in January, but the creative year begins at MerleFest."