Wilkes Community College announced Wednesday that Wes Whitson has been named the festival director for MerleFest.
He will succeed Ted Hagaman, who plans to retire in the fall of 2022 after 15 years as festival director.
Whitson joined Wilkes Community College in 2017 and has been the operations manager for MerleFest the past five years. After graduating from West Charlotte High School in 1995, he earned a bachelor of science degree in parks and recreation management from Western Carolina University. Before joining WCC, Whitson worked in banking and real estate, and most recently in hospitality and resort rental management.
“I couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity to serve WCC and our community through MerleFest,” Whitson said in a news release. “Having the opportunity to work with such an amazing organization over the past five years has been inspiring to say the least. I’m still taken back each and every day as I discover new ways in which MerleFest and Wilkes Community College make a difference in our region for those who need it the most. It’s an honor to contribute to that effort and I look forward to building on the great tradition of giving back that MerleFest has established over the past 33 years.”
In regard to his retirement, Hagaman said, “After serving 15 years as festival director at MerleFest and 21 years as executive director of Events and Hospitality at Wilkes Community College, I feel it is the right time to start planning for retirement. My wife and I would like to travel and spend more time with family. I plan to work one more year at the college and retire in the fall of 2022.”
Hagaman added that Whitson’s promotion will allow him to spend the next year working as a mentor to Whitson and a new events operations specialist.
“There is a lot to learn, and this will provide both of them with the support necessary to ensure a smooth transition,” Hagaman said. “Wes is a people person and a man of high character and integrity. He has been very involved in MerleFest for the past five years, and I am confident he will do an outstanding job leading the festival. I feel very good about the future of MerleFest and the wonderful team we have assembled to carry it forward.”
Hagaman said in an interview that his retirement next year “doesn’t mean I’m not going to be volunteering and doing some things with the festival down the road. I’m always going to have Merlefest in my blood. It’s a great event.”
The Wilkes Community College Foundation sponsors MerleFest.