JEFFERSON — Music, singing and dancing filled Ashe County Park during the 50th annual Ashe County Bluegrass and Old Time Fiddlers Convention Saturday, July 27.
Following two afternoons of jam sessions at Ashe County Park Thursday and Friday, July 25 and 26, a series of instrumental, song and dance competitions ran all day Saturday, featuring both youths and adults plucking, picking and strumming fiddles, banjos, guitars, basses, violins and other Appalachian instruments.
Todd Ruritan Club served hot dogs, hamburgers and barbecued pork butts from the Ashe County Park concession stands while Greater Lansing Area Development sold ice cream and snacks from beneath a tent and Ashe County Arts Council, the event organizer, sold fiddlers convention t-shirts and decals.
Longtime Ashe County Arts Council Volunteer Edie Miller said the fiddlers convention is a proud tradition in the county.
“I used to come to the fiddlers convention with my daddy,” Miller said. “Old Time music still has a place in our hearts.”
According to Miller, the arts council raffled off a banjo, with proceeds from the raffle to benefit Ashe arts.
“I’m glad to see the younger people getting into the music,” Miller said.
While tunes of Appalachia strummed on the main stage, local luthiers shaded beneath a nearby tent displayed their handmade instruments for sale.
In his second year selling mandolins at the fiddlers convention, Eddie Blevins said he enjoyed traveling from Tennessee to hear the music and see people testing his handiwork.
“I like to watch people playing them, that’s one of the coolest things about this, watching people sit down and play,” Blevins said. “There are a lot of talented people here, especially the young people.”
Stacy Boyd of Laurel Fork, Virginia, came with his wife and son for their fourth year competing at the Ashe County fiddlers convention. For Boyd and his family, bluegrass and old time music is a family affair stretching back generations.
“My dad plays, uncle plays, brother plays,” Boyd said. “My wife, on her side of the family, her mother plays, her uncle plays — so it’s a family thing.”
Boyd said he has been plucking his stand-up bass for 25 years, and he tries to attend and compete in as many fiddlers conventions as possible with his family.
“It’s really exciting to be able to compete, and not knowing what somebody else is going to play, and what the judges are going to think,” Boyd said.
Boyd said his favorite tune to play on bass is Ragtime Annie, and the ages-old music is an important tradition that should be continued.
“It’s something you need to carry on,” Boyd said. “We had our son take lessons to find out whether he had music in him, because he wasn’t interested — he was interested in game and computers — so we got him started, and within a year he was playing just as well as some of the others who had been playing for 20 years. He had it in his blood — he just needed some encouragement to get him started.”
Jeff Fissel said he enjoyed experiencing his first major event in his new position as Ashe County Arts Council Executive Director.
“It was really cool to be a part of the 50th anniversary — what a history,” Fissel said. “The best time to plan for the next event is when you’re there — I’m in a unique position because I have fresh eyes, and I noticed things this year that will seem normal two years from now.”
A panel of three judges scored competitors to determine winners in a variety of categories, with cash prizes awarded based on placement, Fissel said.
Planning for the 51st Ashe County Bluegrass and Old Time Fiddlers Convention will begin soon, Fissel said. For now, a list of winners during the 2019 fiddlers convention can be found attached to this story.