Wes Pettinger remembers falling in love with music at the Eaton County Fairgrounds. He was just a boy when his dad would take him to the Charlotte Bluegrass Festival each summer. There he found his passion for music as he wandered the grounds listening to the “parkin’ lot pickin’ that would take place throughout those June weekends.

As promoter of the Charlotte Bluegrass Festival, which is the second longest-running festival east of the Mississippi, Wes hopes to pass that love of music on to the next generation. Beginning this weekend, folks from throughout the Midwest will start taking up residence at the Eaton County Fairgrounds in preparation of the 46th annual event, which officially takes place June 21 through June 23.

“We’ll have 100 campers or so by Monday,” Wes said. “They’ll stay all week. Many of them will sit around the campfire and jam.”

Those jams (referred to as parkin’ lot pickin’) are almost as big a draw as the festival’s headliners. Aside from those nationally acclaimed acts that will occupy the main stage over the course of three evenings, Wes has organized a number of opportunities for youth to be exposed to the music.

On Wednesday, June 20, one of the pavilions will be filled with musical instruments, and children are encouraged to wander through and test each one of them.

“It’s our version of a petting zoo,” Wes said. “It gives kids a first-hand view of what people are doing on stage.”

In addition to the petting zoo, two different workshops will be held throughout the festival. One is geared towards children, giving them a more in-depth understanding of the instruments. The second is for people of all ages to get the chance to be up close and personal with the instruments and many of the festival’s performers.

Wes said the Charlotte Bluegrass Festival continues to evolve and now includes a larger variety of performers, including Americana and country music in addition to traditional bluegrass.

“We have to walk that fine line of providing music that appeals to a younger generation, while making sure we have something for our hardcore bluegrass fans,” Wes said.

For more information on the 46th Annual Charlotte Bluegrass Festival, including a full lineup of performers and events, visit charlottebluegrassfestival.com or find Charlotte Bluegrass Festival on Facebook.