By Joe Johnson
The Caldwell Arts Council invites you to experience a perfect Labor Day Weekend on the banks of the Yadkin River, surrounded by mountain music, dance, food, and beautiful scenery. Happy Valley Fiddlers Convention events will occur on August 30-31 and September 1 at Jones Farm, 3590 NC-268, Lenoir NC (Happy Valley). Tickets are paid upon arrival at the gate beginning at 12:00 noon on Friday until 4:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Festival fun begins at 7 p.m. Friday, featuring a community dance with mountain music, cakewalks, an open mic, a joke contest and more. Friday’s events are free to attend.
Saturday is packed with great entertainment! Eight categories of music competitions begin at 10 a.m. on the main stage. The Youth JAM Tent offers performances by talented young musicians. Non-music and children’s activities include storytelling, children’s crafts and a parade, a flatfoot dance workshop, and lots of fun. Saturday’s events are $10 for attendees 16 or older.
The weekend concludes with a Sunday concert starting at 11 a.m. featuring a lineup of musicians including Piney Woods Boys, Shelby Rae Moore Band, Strictly Clean and Decent, the Burnett Sisters, The Harris Brothers, and the Jeff Little Trio. The Youth JAM tent will host workshops for adults & kids in fiddle, banjo, guitar, and storytelling. Sunday’s events are $15 for attendees 16 and older.
For 15 years Happy Valley Fiddlers Convention has been managed by a group of volunteers who are committed to the preservation and promotion of traditional music. We are a sub-committee of the Caldwell County Arts Council 501(c)(3). The mission of the Happy Valley Fiddlers Convention is to preserve and promote the cultural heritage and resources of Happy/Yadkin Valley through an annual music festival that highlights traditional old-time and bluegrass music and rural traditions, doing so in a way that provides wholesome family activities and protects our farmland and community values while promoting trust between the community and the event.
Being a not-for-profit event, all funds beyond those necessary to ensure the continuation of the festival will go to youth scholarships and music programs that preserve traditional music, dance and instrument making activities. Our ability to offer low admission fees is only possible by the support of volunteers, our musicians and sponsors.
The Upper Yadkin River Valley in Caldwell and Wilkes counties, also known locally as Historic Happy Valley, has been farmed continuously since the 18th century. Some of the first settlers to arrive to the Cherokee and Catawba inhabited valley came in the late 1700s.
Happy Valley was a fertile region, and agriculture played an important role to families that settled in the valley. A number of farmers in the valley today are descendants of these early families and a significant amount of farmland bordering the river is still used for grazing cattle and cultivating corn and hay. In addition, some residents maintain occupational traditions that are holdovers from earlier generations, such as training and working draft animals, cultivating “heritage” vegetables and fruits, and constructing traditional pole and log barns and outbuildings. Local farmers and their neighbors pass down stories associated with some significant historical events that have occurred in Historic Happy Valley. The Over Mountain Men on their way to battle at Kings Mountain in 1780 used the dirt path, still visible in places, that runs along the Yadkin River. The community of Elkville was home to and the base of operations for Daniel Boone during the years he explored and settled Kentucky.
Thomas Dula (known as Tom Dooley), a local man who served with distinction during the Civil War, was accused of murdering a neighbor, Laura Foster, May of 1865. The events surrounding this crime and Dula’s subsequent trial and execution live on in a now-famous ballad, “Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley,” which is still performed by remarkable singers and musicians from the region.
General William Lenoir and his family built their homestead in the valley between 1788 and 1792 on the former site of the fort, which was designed to protect settlers from the early Native Americans in the area. The home of William Lenoir has been fully restored to its late eighteenth, early nineteenth century grandeur and features over 300 pieces of original furnishings and artifacts. In addition to its music traditions, Historic Happy Valley is home to quilters, woodworkers and other craft artists, painters, and storytellers. The Valley is also the location of 13 sites on the National Register of Historic Places, including The Patterson School Historic District, which is one of only two rural historic districts in North Carolina.
Rustic camping is available on the Jones Farm along the Yadkin River. Camping fees are $25 for the entire weekend per tent/camper— that’s Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Gates open for camping on Wednesday, August 28. It is $10 per night if you camp or tent prior or after those dates. Payments for camping are to be made directly to Tony Jones of Jones Family Farm; he will collect camping fees from all campers personally. The fee does not include admission and no electric or water hookups are available. Someone must be on the grounds or have a designated person to monitor the site 24 hours a day. No tent, camper, etc. can be left unattended before and after the festival begins and ends. Given that campers are here to enjoy music and the solitude of the Yadkin River, the use of generators is restricted. A place in the lower bottom field will be designated for campers who want to run their generators during the DAY TIME. No generators will be allowed to operate between the hours of 5:00 PM and 8:00 AM. Generators must conform to National Park Service regulations pertaining to audio disturbances, which states that “motorized equipment” cannot exceed 60 decibels.
Pets must be leashed and are limited to the campgrounds. No dogs are allowed within the performance area. Campers must carry out all trash. A very primitive outdoor hot water shower, designed and patented by Tony Jones, is available to the adventurous.
Only trained service dogs are allowed in the festival within the music/food venue area. Service dogs that disrupt the music or the peace must be removed.
You can bring your own chairs if you’d like, but lawn chairs are only allowed outside the tents and around the festival grounds. 600 folding chairs are provided inside the tents.
Handicapped parking is available, just tell the gate volunteers when you arrive and they will direct you to the proper parking location. Remember, Jones Farm is a working farm, and all parking is in a pasture. Volunteers will work to get those who are handicapped as close to the main tent as possible.
Food vendors will be serving food Friday evening and all day Saturday and Sunday. Mixtures of food types are offered; bring your own picnic if you’d like because the nearest McDonald’s is 25 miles away. Bagged ice is available at the convention, but only on Saturday. A local store about five miles away offers bagged ice.
No public display of alcohol is allowed at the Happy Valley Fiddlers convention. Your camper and/or tent is your private space to enjoy as you choose, just remember, make your mama proud!
Neither smoking nor vaping is allowed in the music, food, or craft venues. Smoking is only allowed in the parking and camping areas. Since the convention is located on a working farm, please don’t allow cows to take up the habit of smoking! Properly dispose of your filters.
For more information regarding details and directions for the Happy Valley Fiddlers Convention visit https://HappyValleyFiddlers.org