By Nathan Ham
Ashe County Park is the place to be this Friday and Saturday for the 49th edition of the Ashe County Bluegrass and Old Time Fiddlers Convention.
The fiddlers convention was started in 1969 by the Rotary Club of the Jeffersons and was hosted each year by the Rotarians until five years ago when the club decided they simply did not have the time or the volunteers to keep the convention going.
That’s when the Ashe County Arts Council stepped in.
“The idea of the fiddlers convention dying and going away just didn’t sit well with the arts council, so we said we’ll give it a try. This is our fifth year sponsoring the event,” said Jane Lonon, the executive director of the Ashe County Arts Council. “For all of the arts council’s events, finding our niche, finding out what our community wants and what we can do well is at the forefront of how we do things. So for the fiddlers convention to preserve our local traditional music and celebrate our local musicians, to be able to provide them with great prize money for their efforts, has just been a very satisfying experience.”
This event is also used as a fundraiser for the Junior Appalachian Musicians Program sponsored through the Ashe County Arts Council.
The JAM Program, which started in 2001, is designed to provide instruction and education from local musicians on how to play traditional music instruments. Students are offered the opportunity to learn the banjo, guitar and fiddle. Classes are held at the Ashe County Civic Center from September through May for a small fee.
Music at the fiddlers convention gets underway on Friday night at 7 p.m. with the Appalachian Barn Dance.
Competitions fire up on Saturday with the gates opening at 10 a.m. The first competition starts from noon and will last until 2 p.m. with youth individual and youth band competitions.
Next up will be the adult individual competition from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. and dance competitions from 6 p.m. until 7 p.m.
Youth awards will be presented at 7 p.m. followed by the adult band competition as the nightcap, starting at 7:30 p.m. Adult award presentations will follow the band competition. Over $4,300 in cash prizes will be awarded on Saturday night.
Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Ashe County Arts Center or they can be purchased the day of the event with cash or check. Ticket prices are $5 for Friday, $10 for Saturday or $15 for the weekend. Children 12 and under get in free with a paying adult.
Camping is also available for those that want to stay in the park. Camping costs are $10 a night or $15 a night with electricity (these spots have limited availability). Campsites open at 4 p.m. on Thursday and are assigned on a first come-first served basis. Camping reservations are not accepted.
In addition to the music, there will be an arts and crafts vendor area and luthier vendors at the fiddlers convention.
For more information on the event, visit www.ashefiddlersconvention.org.