By Angela Gazzillo and Jessica Isaacs
It’s that time of year again! Grab your hats and your dancing shoes and head over to Ashe County Park in Jefferson for the 47th annual Ashe County Bluegrass and Old-Time Fiddlers Convention this weekend, Friday and Saturday, July 22-23.
Proceeds from the convention support the Junior Appalachian Musicians program, which was established in 2000 through the Ashe County Arts Council as a way to pass on and continue the musical traditions of the county and region.
“This is the third year that we have sponsored it. We took it over from the rotary club three years ago. We feel it is important to celebrate and showcase the heritage and music of our area and the talent that we have in folks who play old-time and bluegrass music,” said Rebecca Williams, program director for the arts council. “The competition is fun. It’s great for musicians to meet up with other musicians and play and jam and enjoy themselves. It’s all in celebration of the music and the tradition.”
On Friday night, July 22, Appalachian Barn Dance with bands Zephyr Lightning Bolts and Strictly Strings with Cecil Gurganus will start at 7 p.m. and will be held at the Lakeview Shelter at Ashe Park. Dance caller John Turner will be calling reels, big circles, four couple figures and more. All ages and experience welcome. Admission is $5 per person and children under 12 are free with accompanying adult. Caller John Turner will bring to the dance floor old time square dance, flat foot and two step dances.
Following an evening of high spirits and busy feet is a day full of friendly competition. The gates open to the public Saturday morning at 10 a.m. Registration for the competitions are open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on a first-come first-serve basis. Competitors can register backstage, and no pre-registration is required.
On Saturday, concessions are sponsored by the Todd Ruritan Club and food offerings include pork barbeque sandwiches and plates, hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, desserts, soft drinks, coffee and water. Friday night there will be hot dogs, soft drinks and snacks.
The youth Individual and Youth Bands Competitions will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Adult Individual Competitions are from 2-6 p.m., the Dance Competitions are from 6-7 p.m., and the Adult Band Competition is at 7:30 p.m. following the Youth Award Presentations.
A new addition for 2016 will be an arts and crafts area highlighting area luthiers. Information about the local mountain musical heritage will be on display.
Musicians will register the day of the competition. Performance slots will be allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis. Competition winners in adult categories will be awarded cash prizes. Full competition rules, schedules, and awards can be found at www.ashefiddlersconvention.org.
Admission is $5 Friday only, $10 Saturday only or $15 for both. Tickets can be purchased on site or by calling the Ashe County Arts Council at 336-846-2787.
Convention photos by Kim Hadley and Ryan Flanagan.