When campers start arriving at Veterans Memorial Park early in the week near the first of June, it means only one thing: The Mount Airy Fiddlers Convention is at hand.
The 43rd-annual event is tuning up for its latest showcase of old-time and bluegrass talent which will unfold Friday and Saturday.
Musicians from near and far are drawn to the convention as well as fans of the more traditional genre that seems to be undergoing a resurgence and attracting younger listeners who appreciate its special quality.
“This is just another drawing card to bring people to our town because it is so unique,” Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority member Shirley Brinkley said of the fiddlers convention and the role it plays.
Not only does the event attract people from out of town, it provides an opportunity for local residents to experience “the many talents that are in our own community,” according to Brinkley, who also serves on the city board of commissioners. She further sees the impact of the convention as a staff member of Holiday Inn Express.
“We are going to be booked,” Brinkley said of the upcoming weekend, “and the fiddlers convention is probably a big part of it.”
Some festival attendees plan vacations around the convention held each year on the first weekend in June, and early arrivals who prefer camping out began setting up sites at Veterans Memorial Park at the first of this week.
It officially kicks off Friday with a musical workshop at the convention grandstand scheduled from noon to 3 p.m., featuring flat-footing and old-time fiddling.
Two band and 12 individual contests will be featured Friday and Saturday, which includes adult and youth categories.
Old-time and bluegrass band competition is usually one of the more popular attractions at the convention that began in 1972, with groups to vie this year for first prizes of $400 in each category. Band performances begin Friday at 7 p.m.
The contest resumes Saturday at 9:30 a.m. with folk sing and categories for individual instruments: bluegrass and old-time banjo, bluegrass and old-time fiddle, which will continue until 2 p.m.
Guitar, mandolin, dobro, bass fiddle, dulcimer and autoharp contestants will occupy the stage from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, with youth dancing and awards set for 5:45 p.m.
Band competition resumes Saturday at 6 p.m. Adult dancing is slated after that.
Between 600 and 1,000 contestants usually participate in the convention. A total of $2,630 in prize money will be awarded along with ribbons and trophies.
In 2013, a local group, The Slate Mountain Ramblers, won the old-time band competition, with bluegrass band honors going to Crossroad of Cana, Va.
Aside from the formal contests, the fiddlers convention also includes mini-performances all around the park grounds, sometimes featuring members of national known groups such as Donna the Buffalo and The Carolina Chocolate Drops. The Mount Airy event serves as a reunion for musicians.
The convention will be held rain or shine, with those attending encouraged to bring lawn chairs.
General admission ticket prices are $10 for Friday, $10 for Saturday and $15 for contestants, according to a website for the convention. Children 6 and under will be admitted free with a paying adult.
Brinkley indicated that anyone who hasn’t attended the convention doesn’t know what they’ve been missing, touting it as a fun family event.
A trolley service began Wednesday between Veterans Memorial Park and various stops in downtown Mount Airy.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.