Sad news for fans and pickers in central North Carolina, as one of the oldest and most venerated contest festivals in the US is no more. The Ole Time Fiddler’s and Bluegrass Festival, known colloquially as Fiddler’s Grove, has handed out its last ribbons.
After being held annually since 1970, promoter Hank Van Hoy announced on Friday that there would be no festival in 2013, and that there were no plans to reconvene in the future. Hank is the son of the initial founder, H.P. Van Hoy, who launched the convention as the Union Grove Fiddler’s Convention in 1924, a fundraiser at and for the Union Grove School.
But could this long-running event yet be salvaged? It has survived numerous challenges over the years, including the name and site change in 1970, fierce municipal opposition when the attendance soared from 10,000 to 100,000 in the 1960s, and a number of tense years in the ’70s when rival Van Hoy family festivals claimed the mantle of Union Grove.
This time, though, declining attendance and increased costs may spell final doom for this popular gathering place for pickers and fiddlers. Van Hoy has a full-time career as an attorney on nearby Mocksville, and told The Charlotte Observer over the weekend that the abovementioned factors, plus the difficulty of maintaining the necessary staff of volunteers, led to the painful realization that the nearly 80 year old festival should be put to rest.
“If we can’t do a festival with high quality and a family atmosphere, we just felt it best to (not) go on.”
It is expected that bluegrass and old time workshops/concerts will continue to be held at Fiddler’s Grove, and the nearby Van Hoy Family Campground moving forward.