Despite unfortunate festival cancellation, CASC moves forward with guest judges

March 30, 2020 - Wilkesboro, N.C. - From its first incarnation in 1993, MerleFest’s annual Chris Austin Songwriting Competition has seen the likes of Gillian Welch, Tift Merritt, and Martha Scanlan rise to the top of an always competitive field of up-and-coming songwriters. Legendary songwriters have presided over the competition from the start as judges, too. Darrell Scott, Hayes Carll, and the late, great Guy Clark have all taken a turn at judging the CASC. This year finds the CASC adapting to the current state of the world and forging on despite the cancellation of MerleFest 2020. Judging was coordinated by the volunteer chair of the CASC and award-winning songwriter and Americana pioneer, Jim Lauderdale. Lauderdale enlisted industry professionals Ashlee Jean Trott-Lurgio (Senior Producer, Music City Roots), Justin Hiltner (Associate Editor, The Bluegrass Situation), and heralded singer/songwriter Lauren Morrow to choose twelve finalists in four categories. “We are very excited to announce some good news,” says Ted Hagaman, MerleFest Festival Director. “Today we announce the 12 finalists for the 2020 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. CASC 2020 had one of the largest number of participants in the history of the competition with some of the best songs ever presented. We congratulate these 12 and look forward to naming category winners at the 2021 festival.”

This year’s Chris Austin Songwriting Competition finalists are:


Aaron Burdett (Saluda, N.C.) – “Rockefeller”

Joel Mabus (Portage, Mich.) – “Shine”

Molly Mathewson (Athens, Ill.) – “The Tie that Binds”


Marie Bradshaw (Centerville, Utah) – “American Dream”

Sarah Jones (Nashville, Tenn.), Royale Lynn (Nashville, Tenn.), Priscilla Block (Nashville, Tenn.) – “Wyoming”

Sarah Jane Nelson (Nashville, Tenn.), Kenny Foster (Nashville, Tenn.) – “Sins of the Father”


Jomo Edwards (Austin, Texas) – “You Need It”

Dori Freeman (Galax, Va.) – “The Rollin’ Hills”

Bradley Lauretti (Shelton, Conn.) – “South Dakota”


Mark Atkinson (Charleston, W. Va.) – “Home”

Benjamin Luckhaupt (West Harrison, Ind.) – “Songs About Heaven”

Erinn Peet-Lukes (Golden, Colo.) – “Take Back Your Angels”

A Friendly Reminder: In response to directives from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and growing concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Wilkes County officials have cancelled all mass gatherings of more than 50 people in Wilkes County through the end of April. Therefore, MerleFest 2020 has been cancelled. MerleFest will be offering three options for those who have purchased 2020 tickets through the official MerleFest ticketing system:

Option 1: Convert your purchase to a donation. Convert your festival purchase to a 100% tax-deductible contribution to the WCC Foundation to help sustain the mission of MerleFest and its impact on WCC students. Additionally, MerleFest has a private donor who issued a challenge to help offset pre-festival expenses already incurred in preparation for MerleFest 2020. The donor will match dollar for dollar funds raised up to $150,000.

Option 2: Roll your tickets forward. Ticket holders may roll purchases over to MerleFest 2021. This option allows fans to retain the same seat, package, parking, ticket, etc., at 2020 prices. The dates for next year’s festival are April 29 – May 2, 2021.

Option 3: Refund. If for any reason, you feel that neither option 1 nor 2 is appropriate for you, we can certainly offer you a refund for your ticket order. All refunds must be requested by April 15. We will refund everything except service charges, which are non-refundable.

IMPORTANT: All ticket holders must contact the MerleFest box office between March 16 and April 15 to confirm the option you are choosing. If we don’t hear from you by April 15, we will roll your tickets forward to 2021. You can contact the MerleFest box office Monday-Thursday 12 p.m.-5 p.m.and Friday 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Here are four ways to contact us:

Mail: MerleFest Tickets, P.O. Box 120, Wilkesboro, NC 28697

Phone: (800) 343-7857

Visit our box office located in the Walker Center at Wilkes Community College, Wilkesboro, N.C.

About MerleFest: MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of the son of the late American music legend Doc Watson, renowned guitarist Eddy Merle Watson. MerleFest is a celebration of "traditional plus" music, a unique mix of traditional, roots-oriented sounds of the Appalachian region, including old-time, classic country, bluegrass, folk and gospel, and blues, and expanded to include Americana, classic rock, and many other styles. The festival hosts a diverse mix of artists on its 13 stages during the course of the four-day event. MerleFest is the primary fundraiser for the WCC Foundation, funding scholarships, capital projects, and other educational needs.

About Window World®: Window World®, headquartered in North Wilkesboro, N.C., is America’s largest replacement window and exterior remodeling company, with more than 200 locally-owned franchises nationwide. Founded in 1995, the company sells and installs windows, siding, doors and other exterior products, with over 17 million windows sold to date. Window World is an ENERGY STAR® partner and its windows, vinyl siding and Therma-Tru doors have all earned the Good Housekeeping Seal. In 2019, Window World was ranked “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Window and Patio Door Retailers, 5 out of 7 Years” by J.D. Power. Through its charitable foundation, Window World Cares®, Window World and its franchisees provide funding for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®, which honored the company with its Organizational Support Award in 2017. Since its inception in 2008, the foundation has raised over $10.75 million for St. Jude. Window World also supports the Veterans Airlift Command, a nonprofit organization that facilitates free air transportation to wounded veterans and their families. As a member of that network, Window World’s corporate jet has provided transportation for over 115 missions, transporting 140 veterans and logging over 420 hours in the air. For more information, visit or call 1-800 NEXTWINDOW. For home improvement and energy efficiency tips, décor ideas and more, follow Window World on Facebook and Twitter.

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