This past weekend (June 5 and 6) was the 44th Annual Mt. Airy Bluegrass and Old-Time Fiddlers Convention, which is located in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. I arrived in Mt. Airy late Wednesday evening and was quite excited to get to Veterans Memorial Park where all the action takes place. Even though the convention really happens over two days (Friday and Saturday) every tenured festival-goer knows the action begins the second campers enter the park- sometimes as much as three or four days early. Make no mistake, this is no pre-game stuff. Festival-goers throw down from beginning to end; they play great music until the wee hours of the morning.
It’s no secret that those North Carolina boys and girls like to fiddle, play banjo, and make various other instruments sing out, and if you’re ever caught at a music gathering in the state you’re likely to find the aforementioned statement true as the Gospel. For many, the pinnacle of all musical gatherings is the fiddlers convention, and the ones held in the Tar Heel State are second to none. North Carolina fiddlers conventions have been described as many things, but this weekend I found the perfect description.
The conversation I heard was priceless. Two simple statements from a bass player and banjo player summed it all up:
Bass player: “Hey buddy, what do you think?”
Banjo player: “I’ve got my banjo… Get mixed drinks and we can chase wild women.”
Now, before you develop the opinion that the Mt. Airy Fiddlers Convention is an adults-only venue, you should know a few things. The age difference between these two musicians is at least 50 years and the mixed drink in question was something as simple as chocolate milk. In fact, the banjo player, known to the fiddlers convention crowd as “G-man,” was celebrating a recent achievement – his preschool graduation.
The fiddlers convention is something that anyone at any age can enjoy. Well, as long as you enjoy wading in mud and braving the rain to play some of the best music you’ll ever hear. Fans of both bluegrass and old-time music gather there, and even have the chance to compete for prizes in a variety of instrumental, vocal, and band contests. If you’re ever in western North Carolina during the first weekend of June, make sure you stop in. We’ll have you a mixed drink ready.
Editor’s note: John Curtis Goad is too humble to mention it, but he took first place in the Folk Song competition at Mt. Airy, and second place in Bluegrass Band. Well done, son!