Vendini Members honored at the Best of the Fests Awards

Vendini Members Win Big at the Best of the Fests Awards

Vendini News

On November 21, 2016, the second annual Best of the Fests Awards took place in Santa Barbara, CA. Presented by FestForums, the professional festival-industry conference, the Best of the Fests Awards were created to recognize North America’s festivals in the areas of innovation, sustainability and charitable works. This year’s event was absolutely star-studded, with Lifetime Achievement Awards being presented to Woodstock co-creator Michael Lang, celebrity chef Gilles Epie and actor Bruce Dern, who was presented with his award by legendary director Quentin Tarantino.

Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino presents a Lifetime Achievement Award to actor Bruce Dern.

Among the prestigious class of honorees were two festivals in which Vendini is proud to have partnerships. California WorldFest was honored for its outstanding achievement in Innovation for a Music Festival, and North Carolina’s MerleFest was honored for its outstanding achievement in Charity for a Music Festival.


MerleFest was founded in 1988, both as a fundraiser for Wilkes Community College and also to celebrate the life of the late Eddy Merle Watson (son of American music legend Doc Watson). The festival has grown exponentially, becoming one of the premier music festivals of its kind in the country. MerleFest presents a program of traditional American roots music; bluegrass, country, Americana, old-time, Celtic and classic rock musicians all perform on 13 stages during the course of the four-day event. Among the many notable acts who have graced the MerleFest stages are Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Earl Scruggs, Ralph Stanley, Randy Travis, Merle Haggard, the Avett Brothers, Dwight Yokam, the North Mississippi Allstars, Old Crow Medicine Show and Gillian Welch. The lineup for 2017 promises to be the biggest ever with Georgia’s own Zac Brown Band headlining the show (tickets are available on sale now).

The Avett Brothers at MerleFest 2015

Merlefest 2015 Avett Brothers

Photo courtesty of Greg Lawler

MerleFest doesn’t just entertain, however. The festival offers educational workshops, children’s entertainment and performance opportunities for aspiring musicians of all ages. Additionally, MerleFest functions as the primary fundraiser for the WCC Foundation, which help to fund scholarships, the Doc Watson Student Emergency Fund, capital projects and other educational programs at the college. Merle Watson left this world far too young at just the age of 36. But through the efforts of his father, Doc Watson, and the team at MerleFest, Merle’s legacy lives on through music and education. We’re thrilled to congratulate the festival and the family of the late, great Merle Watson on the recognition of their outstanding achievement in charity for a music festival.

California WorldFest

The California WorldFest is now in their 21st year of bringing world music to the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Every year, WorldFest offers what you’d expect from a world-class music festival; presenting greats like Ziggy Marley, Ani DiFranco, Lucinda Williams and hundreds of other artists from across the globe. But it’s the emphasis on global community that has established the event as an innovator among traditional music festivals.

Looking out at California WorldFest 2016

Stage view from Worldfest 2016

Photo courtesty of Alan Sheckter

California WorldFest offers over 50 workshops in music, dance and wellness, as well as a world craft market and a Conscious Living expo. By offering a range of unique activities for all ages (in addition to A-list musical entertainment), California WorldFest is a truly an innovator in the industry.  “We are thrilled to be recognized by FestForums as innovators in the festival market”, said Julie Baker, executive director of the Center for the Arts, a nonprofit organization who assumed ownership of the festival in 2013. “Honoring Native Peoples, emphasizing conscious living and sustainability practices, providing a safe and friendly environment for families to gather, celebrating global cultures and bringing people together through music is our mission. The staff of the Center works hard to provide a quality and engaging experience for our artists, patrons, volunteers and vendors. It is an honor to be recognized for our efforts.”

Michael Lang and Julie Baker at the 2016 Best of Fests Awards

Michael Lang and California WorldFest Executive Director Julie Baker.

Vendini’s Chief Revenue Officer Keith Goldberg was on hand at the ceremony to personally offer his congratulations. “It’s extremely gratifying to see our members recognized by the festival community for their remarkable achievements,” said Goldberg.  “The charitable work done by MerleFest has changed the lives of the people they serve and the innovations pioneered by California WorldFest have the potential to influence the entire industry going forward. We’re very proud to be partners with both organizations and we congratulate them on their hard-earned achievement.”