Old Time Fiddler's Convention

Old Time Fiddler's Convention

On the first weekend in June every year, men and women, young and old, gather together in Mount Airy, North Carolina for the annual Old Time Fiddlers Convention. The competition draws people from nearly every state in the U.S., and there are even a few people from overseas who venture to the small town in quaint Surry County. On Folkways' Old Time Fiddlers Convention, David Holt introduces us to some of the people who bring their fiddles, banjos, guitars, or bass. Mike Seeger, a musician who has collected and performed old time music for over 40 years, accompanies David on the Jaw Harp. Ralph Blizzard from eastern Tennessee shows off his long bow style of fiddle playing.

Far from being a typical conference or competition, the participants of the Fiddlers Convention come for the fun. While groups perform on stage to be judged, other groups practice backstage, creating a cacophony of squeals and strums from fiddles and banjos playing a wide variety of traditional tunes. While other groups play music under their tents, adults and children clog and dance on some of the wooden stages set on the grass. Musicians from Bologna, Italy, and Raleigh, North Carolina show that the western North Carolina mountain area is not the only home for these favorite melodies. David talks to some pre-teens who play old-time music because it's fun, and who will develop their own styles and pass them down, keeping the music of the hills alive in North Carolina for a long time to come.

When G.F. Collins held the first Bluegrass and Old Time Fiddlers Convention in Mount Airy, North Carolina during the first weekend of June 1971, he had no idea that the small competition would attract people throughout the world. Today more than 5,000 people and about 150 bands from throughout the United States, and some from as far away as Europe flock to the small Southern town whose only other claim to fame is as the fictional town of Mayberry on the Andy Griffith Show. Competitors enter in one or more of the categories: Bluegrass & Old Time band, Bluegrass & Old Time fiddle, Bluegrass & Old Time banjo, guitar, mandolin, bass, dobro, dulcimer, autoharp, folk song, adult and children's dance. Winners receive prize money, ribbons, or trophies. People from various walks of life, from farmers to lawyers, pre-teens and older musicians, come together to be chosen best in their competing category or to just have fun playing or dancing.

The event begins on Friday night and ends on Sunday, held during the first full weekend in June and sponsored by The American Legion and V.F.W.


Alleghany County Fiddlers Convention
If you miss the Mount Airy Fiddlers Convention in June, the Alleghany County Fiddlers Convention takes place in July. Here's some information about it.

Old Time Fiddlers' and Bluegrass Convention
Mocksville, NC holds a festival similar to the one in Mount Airy as well.

Ole Time Fiddlers' and Bluegrass Festival
In Union Grove, Iredell County, NC, holds workshops and has other activities such as storytelling at their Festival, which has taken place around Memorial Day since 1924.

Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention
Actually, this convention is held in Limestone County, Alabama