Founded in 1995, the Alleghany County Fiddler’s Convention in Sparta keeps alive the bluegrass, old-time music and dance traditions of the Appalachian region. This year’s convention Friday, July 15 and Saturday, July 16, features an appearance by the Lonesome River Band.
A family-friendly event, the fiddler’s convention is all about playing and competing on a variety of traditional instruments including fiddle, banjo, mandolin, autoharp, guitar, bass, dulcimer, dobro and harmonica. It also features traditional singing and dancing. People of all ages, from kids to seniors, attend and compete.
In 2000, the convention became a fundraiser for the Sparta volunteer fire department, the event’s organizers. Gary Atwood says that attendance continues to rise in spite of gasoline prices.
“For the past five years we’ve run out of camping spots, so we’re always looking for additional ones for the new people who want to come,” Atwood says. “That’s been a challenge, but our county has acquired some land right next to the Alleghany Fairgrounds, where the convention takes place, so we seem to have lucked out.”
Atwood says attendees may already have a fondness for the music or might be adding a visit onto an existing trip. “We’ve had people from as far away as Australia come and see us,” he says. “They were musicians themselves, visiting the Blue Ridge Mountains, and they had a great time.”
Still, most of the festival’s attendees are from N.C. and Virginia. The festival’s proximity to Galax, Va., provides a built-in audience. In addition, Alleghany is one of 12 western N.C. counties that host the Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program, a mentoring opportunity administered by the N.C. Arts Council that links experienced players of traditional music with schoolchildren.
“It’s the heritage that’s important,” Atwood says. “We think it’s good to carry on the legacy.”
For more information, visit: http://alleghanyfiddlersconvention.com/index.html.