The fifth annual Surry Old Time Fiddler Convention brought in a crowd of old time music lovers and dancers on opening night Friday at Surry Community College.
Mountain Park Old Time Band was the opening act on Friday’s stage of old time music performers, followed by Slate Mountain Ramblers and Back-Step.
Square dancers, cake walkers, two-steppers and flat-footers of all ages danced with enthusiasm in a Surry Community College gym filled with colorful homemade quilt display and a wall exhibit of four Surry Old Time Fiddlers Music Masters displayed.
Chester McMillian of Carroll County, Va., was one of four featured music masters displayed on a wall exhibit along with greats Benton Flippen, Mac Snow and Johnny Gentry. He said he was honored to receive the Brown Hudson Award from the North Carolina Folklore Society in 2013. He said it is important to him to carry on the music tradition with children and hopes to get an old time music program going at Cedar Ridge Elementary School in Galax, Va.
Five-year-old Olive Whitney won Friday’s featured cake walk competition and claimed the prize of a yellow cake with chocolate icing, that incidentally was baked for the competition by her grandmother, Judy Buckner. The youth has performed the cake walk at the convention for five years and won once before. About Friday’s win, the young Whitney said, “It felt really good.”
On the sidelines stood Whitney’s grandfather Buck Buckner watching with a smile as his granddaughter, Olive, went over to the table of homemade cakes after the winning announcement was made. Buckner is a music organizer of the annual convention and member of the Side-step band that performed the final act on Friday.
He said he was glad to see a big audience show up and emphasized the importance of preserving Surry County old time music and its heritage.
Buckner noted the importance of a Luthier display and free music workshops for any attendees wanting to learn. The workshops featured at this year’s convention were Eddie Bond on fiddle, Paul Brown on banjo and Chester McMillian on guitar.
Also at the festival, was local bluegrass musician Arnold Nunn of the Nunn Brothers, who said he was there to enjoy the music.
“I like it because it is music — anytime you are around stuff like this, you know you are in good company,” said Nunn. He explained in bluegrass play there are at least breaks in the singing — but in old time music, the musician added, “they play their hearts out and sing their hearts out all at one time.” Nunn further described old time music as the “best dancing music in the world,” especially, for flat-footing and two-stepping.
Barry Carlton, a resident of Elkin and member of Elkin Creek Boys Band, said he was enjoying himself. “It is wonderful to keep old time traditions alive like our ancestors,” said Carlton. He is also an organizer of the upcoming Elkin Valley Fiddlers By the River scheduled to be held at Elkin Municipal Park on May 10.
Kelli Wright, a volunteer with the Yadkin Valley Chamber-Dobson Division, called the highlight of her evening watching the younger children enjoying themselves to the sound of the old time music.
Wright said the t-shirts bearing the Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention logo was a big seller on Friday.
Tanya Chilton may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @TanyaTDC.