While COVID-19 travel restrictions kept most of the international fans from attending the Mount Airy Bluegrass and Old Time Fiddler’s Convention over the weekend, there were plenty of stateside fans more than happy to see the event return after a pandemic-forced hiatus last year.
“I’m not sure how many people were there,” said Judy Joyner, who along with her husband, Doug Joyner, were in charge of this year’s festival. “But I had 700 car registrations, and I gave them all away.”
That, she said, did not include people who parked their vehicles on nearby streets and walked into the festival.
“We’ve had lots of comments from people coming in about being glad to be here, glad the convention is back,” said Michael Thorpe, a former park board member and long-time volunteer with the festival. “We’ve got a good crowd and no rain,” he added.
Jim Vipperman, a local musician and music teacher who was overseeing the Friday workshops put on by the Surry Arts Council, estimated he had seen at least 150 folks come through the various classes that day.
“And the convention doesn’t even start until later,” he said around mid-afternoon Friday.
Judy Joyner said while she and her husband were overseeing the convention, many volunteers were needed to pull off the event, especially given the fact they weren’t sure until late March there would be a convention this year.
She especially credited Randy and Tanya Hiatt with being a big reason the convention did so well.
Randy Hiatt, a long-time musician many folks know as “Frosty,” said he ran into people from Florida, New York, and New Orleans at the event. Others attending included fans and musicians from all across North Carolina and Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, Kentucky, Tennessee, and all across the South. A quick walk through the parking lot at times showed license plates from as far away as California and Alaska.
While many come to the convention to renew old friendships, buy and sell music-related goods, and take part in spontaneous jam sessions, the music and dancing competition and shows always take center stage. This year was no exception, with dozens of musicians taking part in nearly two-dozen separate competitions.
The winners included:
Adult Folk Song: first place was Stewart Werner III, of Rocky Mount, Virginia; second was Elsa Howell of Roanoke, Virginia; third was Eliza Meyer of Raleigh; fourth was Mount Airy’s own Tommy Nichols and fifth was John Curtis Combs of Crown, Kentucky;
Adult Bluegrass Band: Harrison Ridge of Mount Airy; Socially Distant of Westfield; Mountain Blessings and Appalachian Mainline, both of Mount Airy; and Coyote Ugly, of Kingsport, Tennessee;
Adult Bluegrass Fiddle: Ruth Shumway of West Jefferson; Cody Bauer of Knoxville, Tennessee; Amanda Harrell of Durham; Crystal Shippley of Wytheville, Virginia; and Willie Marschner of Fairfax;
Adult Bluegrass Banjo: Andy Lowe of Apex; Ronnie Harrison of Woodlawn, Virginia; Tommy Mosre of Stuart, Virginia; Stewart Werner III, of Rocky Mount, Virginia; Eddie Ray Buzzini of Mooresville;
Adult Guitar: Kyser George of Mount Airy; Chad Harrison of Claudeville, Virginia; Gus McGee of King; Steve Kilby of Mouth of Wilson, Virginia; and Conner Stevens of Johnson City, Tennessee;
Adult Bass: John Fogleman of Liberty; David George of Mount Airy; Barbara Bowman of Mount Airy; Wayne Bailey, no hometown listed; and Mike Plumley of Pilot Mountain;
Adult Dobro: Charlie Milliron of Ferrum, Virginia; Robert Ellis of Mocksville; Donnie Scott of Mount Airy; Billy Bourne of Woodlawn; and Keith Aiken of Henderson;
Adult Mandolin: Addie Levy of Radford, Virginia; Daniel Ullom of Asheville; Scott Freeman of Woodlawn; Ralph McGee of King, and Todd Hiatt of State Road;
Adult Dance: Michael Motley, no hometown listed; Phil Jamison, no hometown listed; Danny Knicely, no hometown listed; Marsha Todd, Mount Airy; and Becky Boyd, no hometown listed;
Adult Old Time Band: Stateline Playboys from Lowgap; Boyd and Ashlee Alumridge of Floyd, Virginia; Gap Civil of Sparta; Slate Mount Ramblers of Mount Airy; and Five Mile Mountain Road of Boones Mill, Virginia;
Adult Old Time Fiddle: Erynn Marshall of Galax, Virginia; Andrew Small of Floyd; Richard Bowman of Mount Airy; Marci Shore of King, and Lucas Paslay of Sparta;
Adult Old Time Banjo: Marsha Todd of Mount Airy; Jared Boyd and Trish Fore, both of Galax; Nancy Sluys of Westfield; and Michael Motley, no hometown listed;
Adult Dulcimer: Frank Horn of North Tazwell, Virginia; Ehutkai Teves of Bryson City; Tim Thorton of Shawsville, Virginia; John Renwick of Charlotte County, Virginia; and Chad Ritchie of Taylorsville;
Youth Bluegrass Band: Southbound 77 of Statesville took top honors.
Youth Bluegrass Fiddle: Lake Carver, Mocksville; Hollace Oakes, Radford; Whitney Thornton, Hurdle Mills; Camden Fain, Ararat, Virginia; Neely Sizemore, Elkin;
Youth Bluegrass Banjo: Candace Noah, Dobson; David Arispe, Mount Airy;
Youth Folk Song: Ida Rose Buzzini, Mooresville; Lake Carver, Mocksville; Lyla Cherry, Mooresville; Tae Childress, Statesville; Bayla Davis, Leicester;
Youth Old Time Fiddle: Finton McGrath of Rockbridge County, Virginia; Sylvie Davis of Leicester; Hunter Hiatt of State Road, Jacob Shelton, no hometown listed; Lily Arispe, Mount Airy;
Youth Old Time Banjo: Logan Thompson of Glade Springs, Virginia; Kalya Davis of Leicester;
Youth Guitar: Malachi Bulman of Pinnacle; Levi Arispe of Mount Airy, Maeve McGrath of Rockbridge County; Daniel Rock of Pfafftown; Judah Davis of Leicester;
Youth Mandolin: Loralyn Thorton of Hurdle Mills; Logan Harrison of Claudeville; Natalie Sizemore of Elkin; Emme Davis of Leicester;
Youth Dance: Candace Noah of Dobson; Gracie Terry of Bahama; Neely Sizemore of Elkin; Isaiah Imperial of Thomasville; Malyn Todd of Mount Airy;
Most Promising Youth Award: Candace Noah of Dobson.