2023 Mount Airy Fiddlers Convention winners

Band competition at Mount Airy 2023 – photo © G Nicholas Hancock

The Mount Airy Blue Grass & Old-Time Fiddlers Convention is a popular western North Carolina festival devoted to old-time and bluegrass music and dance. Established in 1972, the first weekend in June’s annual event is held at Veterans Memorial Park in Mount Airy. The music festival features numerous solo and band competitions where winners are awarded cash prizes. Regular performers from past conventions have included the late old-time fiddler Benton Flippen, Appalachian-style flat foot dancer Ira Bernstein, and old-time string band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

This past weekend brought in an increasingly large number of contestants for the 51st annual event with guests from as far away as Minnesota, Florida, Alabama, and California.

Dale Morris, Saturday’s daytime emcee, shared…

“I was talking with members of the Mount Airy Fiddlers’ Convention staff, and they were very pleased with the large turnout of musicians and fans. Old time and bluegrass musicians from many states were in attendance, and the contestant totals were way up this year as well.

We started at 9:30 a.m. and the contestants continued non-stop until 5:15 with only a short 15 minute break for a bathroom and lunch break. We had 177 contestants Saturday in the individual contests (adult and youth), plus 20 youth dancers later on prior to when the bands started around 6:00 p.m. And I think they had about 30 folk singers up in the building on the hill.”

There were a total of 30 adult bands and one youth band that competed on stage. There were also 20 youth clogging contestants.

Doug Joyner, a key convention organizer and president of the Veterans Memorial Park governing board, seemed pleased.

“It’s turned out really good,” Joyner said of the overall turnout. “While contestant numbers are up, (fan) attendance is down, I’m going to say three or four percent.”

And the 2023 winners were:

Adult Bluegrass Band:

  1. Alum Ridge Boys & Ashlee
  2. Harrison Ridge
  3. The Biscuit Eaters
  4. New River Line
  5. Clay & Lew Etc.  

Adult Old-time Band:

  1. Get Down Boys
  2. Slate Mountain Ramblers
  3. Nathan Vargo & Shock Doctrine
  4. The Wildcats
  5. Green Hill Ramblers

Bluegrass Fiddle:

  1. Ella Thomas
  2. A.J. Srubas
  3. Lake Carver
  4. John Hofmann
  5. Kameron Nunn

Old-Time Fiddle:

  1. Billy Hurt
  2. Andrew Small
  3. Conner Vlietstra
  4. Nathaniel Vargo
  5. Raistlin Brabson

Bluegrass Banjo:

  1. Trevor Holt
  2. Ayden Young
  3. David Robinson
  4. Travis Watts
  5. Frankie Key

Old-Time Banjo:

  1. Jared Boyd
  2. Trish Fore
  3. Nancy Sluys
  4. Jacob Holdren
  5. Evie Ladin


  1. Chad Harrison
  2. Cody McGrady
  3. Laura Maxfield
  4. Scott Patrick
  5. Elijah Bulman


  1. Alexander Meredith
  2. Ricky Ellis
  3. Todd Hiatt
  4. Tom Mindte
  5. Luke Little

Bass Fiddle:

  1. John Fogleman
  2. Briar McDowell
  3. Barbara Bowman
  4. Bronwyn Chelette
  5. Nevea Coffey


  1. Allen Surface
  2. Keith Aiken
  3. Donnie Scott
  4. Charlie Milliron
  5. Fredia Penzer


  1. Penny Kilby
  2. Mason Winfree


  1. Phyliss Gaskins
  2. Gail Webber
  3. Sheri Hill
  4. Lisa Poole

Adult Folk Song:

  1. Claire Byrine
  2. Andrew Small
  3. Elsa Howell
  4. Evie Ladin
  5. Meredith Wilkerson

Adult Dance:

  1. Nathan Vargo
  2. Aaron Ratcliffe
  3. Bridgette Rue
  4. Jane Henderson
  5. Brian Ferguson

Youth Old-Time Fiddle:

  1. Ola Rose Moeckel
  2. Samuel Wilkerson
  3. Silas Wilkerson
  4. Hunter Hiatt
  5. Fintan McGrath

Youth Bluegrass Fiddle:

  1. Hollace Oakes
  2. Benjamin Ferranti
  3. Whitney Thornton
  4. Lucy Smith
  5. Alexander Ferranti

Youth Old-Time Banjo:

  1. Bayla Davis
  2. Wrenn Hello
  3. Margo McSweeney
  4. William Moeckel
  5. Everly Pearl Davis

Youth Bluegrass Banjo:

  1. Jo Wilkerson
  2. Malachi Bulman
  3. Candace Noah
  4. Porter Cornette

Youth Guitar:

  1. Tae Childress
  2. Immanuel Roberts
  3. Judah Davis
  4. Elijah Smith
  5. Silas Guillon

Youth Mandolin:

  1. Sarah Roberts
  2. Blane Young
  3. Emme Rose Davis
  4. Emilyn Rogers

Youth Bass Fiddle:

  1. Coley Palmer
  2. Harvey Baker

Youth Folk Song:

  1. Maggie Wilkerson
  2. Hollace Oakes
  3. Gabriella Rogers
  4. Bayla Davis
  5. Levi Head

Youth Dance:

  1. Candace Noah
  2. Pelle Hello
  3. Margo McSweeney
  4. Misha McSweeney
  5. Levi Head

Highest Scoring Youth (Most Promising): Tae Childress (from Statesville, NC)

Youth Bluegrass Band (Most promising talent): Northbound 85

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.