Convention brings visitors from all over U.S.


First Posted: 6/6/2009

Watching performers on the stage at the Mount Airy Blue Grass and Old Time Fiddlers Convention, audience members saw a variety of instruments on display.
From fiddles to banjos, wash boards to bones, wash tubs to guitars, there is seemingly no end to what blue grass and old time artists use for their music.
Much to the benefit of Mount Airy and the surrounding region, there is almost as much variety in the origin of those coming into town to see the event. Perhaps nothing else outside of the Autumn Leaves festival in October and Mayberry Days in September bring as many visitors to town.
We are on our way to Pigeon Forge (Tenn.) and we made this one of our stops, said Al Leggett of Washington, N.C.
His wife, Linda Leggett, said the family often visits blue grass festivals, but their daughter, Angel Leggett, said visiting Mount Airy was a first.
For many years weve gone to other festivals…we saw this one on the Internet and decided to come here.
Kelly Epperson, owner and general manager of WPAQ and WSYD radio stations, said some of the festival is being broadcast over not only WPAQ, but the Internet as well.
That seems only fitting, since he said the Internet has become a tool in bringing visitors to the convention.
Angel Leggett said thats how her family found out about the convention, and Epperson said he had run into others with the same story.
I met a couple from Philadelphia, he said Friday. They are here in Mount Airy because they heard about the fiddlers convention over the Internet. They are staying in town the whole weekend because of that. It (the convention) is a great tool to get people to Mount Airy.
Judy Paul made the trek to the convention this year from her home in North Brand, Minn., just as she has every year for more then a decade.
I was at a clogging workshop in Norton, Va., when Johnny Warren told me about the convention, she said Saturday while taking a break from flat-footing while bands played on the main stage.
After the workshop, I told him I was going back home and Id never get to hear good music like this again, and he told me about the convention. That was 12 years ago, and Ive been here every year since.
While many travel from across the nation to stay in Mount Airy for the entire convention, others make a day trip out of it.
Were from Christiansburg (Va.), and were just down for the day, said Dennis Kiernan, a first-time visitor to the event. He made his comments while his son, Jimmy Kiernan, was flat-footing on a nearby stage. My sons really into this kind of music, and the people here are just great. He has a ball and just loves it.
Out-of-town visitors arent limited to spectators. While theres plenty of local talent at the event, many of the bands hail from Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, even as far away as New York.
We travel to a lot of these, said John Haywood, a member of The Blind Tiger Stringband from Southeast Kentucky.
We do this the whole summer, said bandmate Anna Roberts-Gevalt. Its like a festival of fiddling conventions all summer.
And, like many people, they always include a stop in Mount Airy on their annual calendar.
John Peters can be reached at [email protected]

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