YES! Weekly is proud to present the first annual North Carolina Cigar Box Festival on June 8 at Grove Winery & Vineyards in Gibsonville.
The inaugural event will carry over into the following day with a food truck rodeo and open jam hosted by organizers and weekend-long vendors on June 9.
According to organizers, “the North Carolina Cigar Box Guitar Festival seeks to revive the interest in homemade guitars through the presentation of educational programs, forums, music and workshops.”
“I saw other cigar box guitar festivals being held across the country, but nothing in the Carolinas,” said Greg Musgrove, president of the North Carolina Cigar Box Guitar Festival, and founder of the event.
“I posed the idea to the Facebook and guitar groups,” he explained, and after thousands of encouraging responses, Musgrove pressed forward.
The festival has officially been in the works since November 2018, with the organizational board consisting of friends in the Piedmont Blues Society circle who have an interest in celebrating and acquainting folks with the “iconic American art form” of the cigar box guitar.
“Part of my goal is to just educate people as to how much fun they are,” Musgrove said. “And then, of course, there’s the history–basically they were the poor man’s guitar of the mid to late 1800s.”
Max Llyod, owner of the Grove, (and festival board member) is excited to play host to the festival, which he considers, a “resource and celebration of this cool instrument.”
According to organizers, “the purpose of the North Carolina Cigar Box Guitar Festival is the revival of interest in handmade stringed instruments, leading to historical education that explores the roots of American music.”
Scheduled performers primarily wield cigar box guitars on-stage, though the genres will run from stoner rock to standard blues and all the smokey wonders in between. Some artists will even play through instruments they’ve crafted themselves.
“I use the first cigar box guitar I built for my shows,” said Dar Stellabotta, an “indie rock one-woman band from Southern Maryland,” who is scheduled for an afternoon set. Stellabotta recently released her first record on translucent green vinyl and will have a vendor table featuring her own handmade cigar box guitars. “I’ve built 51 so far,” she added.
The performance schedule is split-up, with the early hours of the festival being free. “The winery needs to be open to the public for wine tasting,” Musgrove explained, “and I wanted to give as many people the opportunity to see performers and visit the vendors.”
Joining Stellabotta in the afternoon portion of the festival is Travis Bowlin, Chris Green, Skye Paige, and One Hand Dan’s Damn Band. At 6 p.m., the ticketed-portion of the event begins, with Blind-Dog Gatewood, Cash O’Riley, and Ben Prestage headlining.
“With all the amazing talent lined up for this, it promises to be one not to be missed,” says anticipated attendee, Benjamin Grant in the Facebook event page, “I’m counting down the days like a kid waiting for Christmas.”
Both electric and acoustic varieties of cigar box guitars will be showcased. “Electric is a must if playing at a large event,” Musgrove noted, “acoustic is for playing on the back porch.”
Organizers have wrangled 23 vendors (and nine cigar box guitar makers) to sling all sorts of crafts and wares.
“I’ve always enjoyed music and making things,” said Anthony Walker from Southpaw Cigarbox Guitars, a vendor of both instruments and parts who’ll be making his first trip to Greensboro for the festival.
“All are limited production runs,” he added to signify his craft, “I sign and number each guitar I sell.”
Vendors will help carry the celebrations into the next day with an open jam and food truck rodeo. The “food truck rodeo on the second Sunday of each month happens anyway,” Musgrove said of the regular event where he first became acquainted with the venue.
“Max does his thing with the trucks,” he added, “so we figured it’d be an opportunity for folks to hang out and stay around for another day.” The open jam is free along with the rodeo and welcomes anyone with a guitar.
For Musgrove, it’ll be “a time to learn from each other and vendors.”
In addition to the open jam, the NC Food Truck Rodeo will host cooking demos in “Marcus’ Pampered Kitchen” tent.
But the main event is all about the music. “Many different styles will be represented,” Musgrove said. “Most are making their living playing cigar box guitars. The festival is all about showing the public, on a whole, this wonderful instrument and how it can be played.”
The North Carolina Cigar Box Guitar Festival is on June 8, with an open jam following on June 9 at Grove Winery & Vineyards.
Katei Cranford is a Triad music nerd who hosts the Tuesday Tour Report, a radio show that runs like a mixtape of bands touring NC the following week, 5:30-7 p.m. on WUAG 103.1fm.