2023 Abingdon Fiddler’s Convention results

Located on the Washington County Fairgrounds in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia, the Abingdon Fiddlers’ Convention returned this past weekend for its second year. It is the region’s largest bluegrass and old-time competition. $7,500 in cash prizes along with beautiful handcrafted iron work trophies were awarded in both adult and youth divisions. Competitors, who came from a number of states, also were eligible for door prizes from local business donors. 

Jennifer Blankenship, chair of the Abingdon Fiddlers’ Convention Committee and a board member for the Washington County Fairgrounds, explained the history behind the event.

“In August of 2021, while working on our county fair, Tonya Tripplet with the Town of Abingdon asked if I had attended the Galax Fiddlers’ Convention. I replied, ‘Of course, I’ve been going since 2016. My 2-year-old son competed at Tazewell Fiddlers’ Convention and Galax that same year.’ She suggested that we sponsor a fiddlers’ convention in Abingdon. I replied, ‘Let’s do it!’ (Not knowing if we had lost our minds or were ready for an adventure.)

The majority of our volunteers last year had never attended a fiddlers’ convention, only livestock shows and county fairs. Thankfully, we had a couple folks on board from the bluegrass and old-time world. We gave it our best shot and felt the first year turned out pretty good, but had room for improvement. Over the past year, we attended conventions all over, asked questions, and partnered with experts in the industry to try and bring a bigger and better convention in 2023.”

Blankenship and her volunteer staff’s efforts paid off with more competitors this past weekend.

“The amount of contestants increased this year. We had visitors from Indiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and Virginia. It’s encouraging to hear professionals that were in attendance say, they would have never imagined our convention to look like it did in year two. The exciting part is we have friends in the community that attended, and are encouraged to see our event grow. They are already on board as volunteers for 2024. It takes a village to put on an event like this, and we couldn’t do it without every single volunteer.”

Plans are already underway for next year’s event.

“We still have room for improvements. Our volunteer staff has a follow-up meeting next week to discuss what worked and what didn’t, and start planning for 2024. It’s going to take a few years for it to fall into place. Simple suggestions were given, such as: placing the MC closer to the stage worker for swifter transitions between competitors, adding more walkie-talkies at the stage, improving the registration process, and studying the schedule for both days. Not knowing if we will have 50 or 250 compete makes it challenging to plan. We want to make it as welcoming and convenient to our musicians, and have a better scheduled time line so everyone knows when their category competes. Also, we hope to have more camping hookups available for next year. The supporters that returned from last year said they could tell how much effort we had put into making the event even better.”

Tim White served as the convention’s MC, and the Tennessee Bluegrass Band performed and provided instrument workshops for attendees.

Lincoln Hensley, banjoist with the Tennessee Bluegrass Band, shared, “This was our first time at the Abington Fiddlers convention, and only their second time having the event. I have to say, after going to many fiddlers’ conventions throughout the years, Abingdon is doing theirs RIGHT: plenty of room for jamming and a great family atmosphere. There was a lot of talent that crossed the stage in those two days, and the Tennessee Bluegrass Band was sure proud to get to be a part of hosting it, and doing a workshop this year. There was a great crowd and it was the perfect weather for a day of music. This event has the potential to be THE EVENT of the year in our area. If I could give you any advice for those that missed it this year, go ahead and put next year’s dates on your calendar now!”

Photographer, G Nicholas Hancock, stated, “I thoroughly enjoyed the convention. They have a beautiful location and excellent facilities for the event. The quality of music in the competitions was high, and having The Tennessee Bluegrass Band as special entertainment just added to that quality. I predict that in three more years this will be one of the top fiddlers’ conventions in the country. It is already in my top three favorites.”

Blankenship concluded, “We moved our date two weeks later next year due to how the calendar falls, June 21-22, 2024. It will be Mount Airy Fiddlers’ Convention, Wayne Henderson’s festival, and then us.”

Winners for this year’s competition were:

Youth Fiddle (Bluegrass)

  1. Holllace Oakes
  2. River Smith
  3. Sylvie Davis
  4. Chloe Campbell
  5. Lucy Smith

Youth Fiddle (Old Time)

  1. Lindy Gladson
  2. Sylvie Davis
  3. Sawyer Smith
  4. Chloe Campbell
  5. Nolan Strupeck

Youth Guitar

  1. Sam Phipps
  2. Judah Davis
  3. Noah Phipps
  4. Gabe Webster
  5. Jessie Ray

Youth Autoharp

  1. Jacob Loker

Youth Mandolin

  1. Blane Young
  2. Noah Phipps
  3. Emme Rose Davis
  4. Lemuel Gladson
  5. Nolan Strupeck

Youth Banjo (Bluegrass)

  1. Connor Nelson
  2. Harlen Gladson
  3. River Smith
  4. Addie Webster

Youth Banjo (Old Time)

  1. Bayla Davis
  2. Harlen Gladson
  3. Everly Pearl Davis
  4. Nicholas Wright

Youth Folk Song

  1. Sawyer Smith
  2. Jessie Ray
  3. Bayla Davis
  4. Hollace Oakes
  5. Maddison Hathcocks

Youth Band (Bluegrass)

  1. Bluegrass Unit
  2. Sorgham Slurpers

Youth Band (Old Time)

  1. Newfound Gap
  2. Mini Musicians

Youth Best Overall – Blane Young (Mandolin)

Adult Fiddle (Bluegrass)

  1. Carrie Webster
  2. Asa Nelson
  3. Hank Vinstra

Adult Fiddle (Old Time)

  1. Asa Nelson
  2. Todd Gladson
  3. Gabe Scott

Adult Guitar

  1. Wayne Dye
  2. Josh Raines
  3. Ethan Ratliff

Adult Bass

  1. Sadie Yates
  2. Lloyd Richardson
  3. Jared Houseman

Adult Autoharp

  1. Dexter Ramey
  2. Penny Kilby
  3. Vickie Sutphin Boyd

Adult Mandolin

  1. Vince Bullins
  2. Kyser George
  3. Jacob Sheffield

Adult Banjo (Bluegrass)

  1. Ayden Young
  2. Mike Mullins
  3. Clay Russell

Adult Banjo (Old Time)

  1. Jared Boyd
  2. Debbie Yates
  3. Logan Thompson

Adult Dulcimer

  1. Ehukai Teves
  2. Frank Horn
  3. Lois Hornbostel

Adult Dobro

  1. Josiah Sheffield

Adult Harmonica

  1. William Burd
  2. Ehuaki Teves
  3. Lucien Castongue

Adult Folk Song

  1. Lloyd Richardson
  2. Jamie Stacy
  3. Isaac Mainer

Adult Flatfoot Dance

  1. Nora Sheppard-Powell
  2. Kenny Monahan
  3. Todd Gladson

Adult Best Overall – Asa Nelson (Fiddle Old Time)

Adult Band (Bluegrass)

  1. Bad Ridge
  2. Bull Run
  3. Ashe Mountain Boys
  4. Cedar Valley Bluegrass

Adult Band (Old Time)

  1. Still Hollow Ramblers
  2. Acoustic Heritage
  3. Newfound Gap
  4. Gladson Family & Friends

Well done all!

All photos © G. Nicholas Hancock

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.