Winners and honorees from 2019 Granite Quarry Fiddlers’ Convention

On Saturday night in central North Carolina, the Granite Quarry Civitan Club held their 53rd Annual Fiddlers’ Convention in the auditorium of East Rowan High School. With 17 entries in the youth division and 20 in the adult categories, the evening was filled with many great moments of musical entertainment. Competitors ranged in age from four-year-old vocalist, Addy Webster, to eighty-three-year-old fiddler/singer, Ervin Hatley. Webster was also awarded the Don & Margaret Livengood Memorial Award for Most Outstanding Youth Performance. 

“I’m so proud of all of our youth performers who came out to compete, ensuring that traditional bluegrass music will continue,” said Convention Coordinator and NC Bluegrass Association President, Vivian Hopkins.

The bluegrass talent contest was the brainchild of the late James Mathis, new principal of Granite Quarry Elementary School in the 1960s. Having moved from Union Grove, NC, where that school’s fiddlers’ convention was very successful, Mathis joined the Granite Quarry Civitan Club and suggested hosting such an event as a fundraiser for their local organization. First, however, he had to explain what a fiddlers’ convention was! The competition was held in the auditorium of the elementary school until a new school was built (without an auditorium) so the event moved to the local high school where it has remained.

Almost a half a decade ago, the Civitans decided to honor an individual who had been instrumental in the promotion of bluegrass and traditonal acoustic music. Vivian Hopkins conducted the annual award ceremony which took place prior to intermission.

“Since 1970, the Civitans have paid tribute to an individual that does a lot for the promotion of the music in our region,” Hopkins announced at the onset of the presentation.

This year’s honoree was Darrell Connor, a gentleman who devoted his life to music and community service. He began playing guitar and banjo in his early teens, formed a band with Don Helms (Hank Williams senior’s steel guitar player), played the Grand Ole Opry and Ernest Tubb’s record shop, earned a spot in the Hank Williams’ Hall of Fame, and received the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Trophy for outstanding performer at the 2018 North Carolina State Fair. Connor performed his music while serving as a lieutenant in the Salisbury Police Department. He continues to entertain with his Country Legends Band for seniors and veterans.

Following the end of competition, scorekeeper for the judges, Eva Casstevens, shared, “Bluegrass is alive and well.”

Winners in Saturday night’s conventions in the youth division:

  • 1st Place Bluegrass Gospel – Westside Gospel
  • Old Time Fiddle – 1st Sabrina Patel, 2nd Teddy Smoker
  • Bluegrass Fiddle – 1st Reagan Thomas, 2nd Tyler Basinger
  • Bluegrass Banjo – 1st Carley Hatley
  • Mandolin – 1st Amelia Freeman, 2nd Ethan Tarleton, 3rd Ruth Hathcock
  • Vocal – 1st Brayden Howell, 2nd Ethan Tarlton, 3rd Addy Webster

Adult Winners:

  • Ralph Pennington Memorial Award for Old Time Fiddle – Scott Stegall
  • Bluegrass Band – 1st Blu Astro Turf, 2nd Route 52, 3rd Goldline
  • Bluegrass Gospel Band – 1st Crossroads
  • Old Time Fiddle – 1st Scott Stegall, 2nd Noah Batke
  • Bluegrass Fiddle – 1st Alec McCallister, 2nd Keith Dunn, 3rd Malachi Freeman
  • Bluegrass Banjo – 1st Alex Edwards, 2nd Jordan McCallister, 3rd John Lee
  • Guitar – 1st Daniel Thrailkill, 2nd Tommy Chandler, 3rd Titus Dryer
  • Mandolin – 1st Jonah Horton, 2nd Richard Benton, 3rd Tom Isenhour
  • Bass – 1st Will Thrailkill, 2nd Jeremy Nash, 3rd Bobby Hartsell
  • Vocal – 1st Caroline Owens, 2nd Samantha Smith, 3rd Rebecca Tucker

Norman Ribelin, chairman of the convention committee, concluded, “Enjoyed having everyone here. Be sure to come back next year.”

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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.