The notes of old-time and bluegrass tunes will be floating through the air Friday and Saturday on the campus of Surry Community College as listeners, dancers and musicians gather for the annual Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention.
This will be the seventh year for the convention, which is organized by the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce, and will begin Friday night with a square dance and continue Saturday with youth and adult competitions throughout the day as well as workshops.
Myra Cook, president of the chamber, said Friday’s dance, scheduled from 7 to 10 p.m. in the SCC gymnasium, will feature Mountain Park Old Time Band from Sparta and New Ballard’s Branch Bogtrotters from Galax, Virginia. The evening also will include a cake walk.
“Then Saturday morning, we will start with different competitions at 10 and through through the day. We are usually out of there by 10 p.m. The presentation of the Master Artist Award will be at 8,” she said.
Registration for competitors begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, with competition kicking off at 11 a.m. The youth dance competition will be held at 6 p.m. and youth awards will be presented at 6:30 p.m. The adult band competition will be form 7 p.m. until all bands have played with adult dance competition and awards for adults and bands bringing up the finale of the day’s events.
While competitions are taking place in the gym Saturday, “we have some of the best old-time music people doing workshops,” said Cook. The workshops in the Presidents’ Room of the Reeves Building will includes fiddle by Paul Brown at 1 p.m.; banjo by Adam Hurt at 2 p.m.; and guitar by Steve Lewis at 3 p.m. A dance workshop will be offered by Rodney Sutton in the main lobby of the Reeves Building at 4 p.m.
While some fiddlers conventions include camping and several days of competitions, Cook said the Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention “is just a different environment.”
She said the event venue is now at capacity. “It’s so popular, if we had more people competing and coming to watch we would have to find a different site,” said Cook.
She said it’s a great family-friendly event, with kids running around outside the gym and musicians jamming in the square between the gym and the Knights Grill.
“Our biggest contributors are Surry County Tourism Development Authority and the Dobson Tourism Development Authority, with the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce as organizer and Surry Community College providing the space and some of the manpower,” Cook said of those involved in making the event successful.
Prizes are given in each category up to fifth place, with 10 adult categories and seven youth categories. Youth can choose to compete in either the youth or adult competitions, but they cannot compete in both.
“There will be hundreds there competing. The total prize list totals $5,000,” Cook said of prize winnings to be given out.
Winners are determined through blind judging, said Cook, explaining judges are behind a curtain listening to the competition, with the exception of the dancing competition.
“A lot of musicians have a certain style, but the judges won’t know for sure who they are,” she said, adding it makes the judging fairer.
The emcees for the event will be Dale Morris and Harold Mitchell, and WPAQ radio will be on hand taping the convention for a later airing.
“It is a good healthy family environment. There will be people dancing and having a good time Saturday,” Cook said. “On Saturday, there are lots of kids running around and having fun along the outskirts of the gym, and there are police and security on hand to make sure everyone is safe.”
Admission to events in the gym, the Friday night dance and the Saturday competitions, are $5 for each day, with competitors being admitted free Saturday and youth 12 and younger admitted free both days.
The workshops are offered free of charge, and she said people are welcome to enjoy the music in the square without paying to enter the gym.
On Friday night, a local Boy Scout troop will bring a big grill and set up and sell concessions, and then on Saturday, the Knights’ Grill will be open beginning at 11 a.m. selling food.
More information on the Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention can be found at surryoldtime.com.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.