For the 45th straight year musicians from throughout Surry County, the area, and the world participated in the Mount Airy Bluegrass and Old-Time Fiddlers Convention.
According to Veterans Memorial Park board member Mike Thorpe, musicians travelled from countries such as Ireland and Britain to participate in this year’s competitions, which began Friday and ran throughout the course of the day Saturday.
Thorpe said the convention has drawn such worldwide attention the British Broadcasting Corporation was on site filming for a documentary about the event.
Chris Hawke, who is originally from Canada, came all the way from China.
Hawke said he moved to China while working as an editor for the Associated Press. Since making his move, he began studying banjo and formed an old-time band. It made sense he come to the home of Tommy Jarrell and Fred Cockerham.
“Some people don’t realize what kind of a treasure this music is,” said Hawke, explaining it may be overlooked in this area.
Hawke said in China he and his band, who he admitted were not nearly as good as many of the bands at the convention, were able to make a living performing the music which originated in the Surry County area. It seems the people in China appreciate the “relaxing” nature of the genre.
Thorpe said attendance to this year’s convention mimicked that of years prior. More than 100 adults had signed up in individual competitions, and about 90 bands were set to compete.
The musicians were set to play into the early morning hours of Sunday, competing for top spots at this year’s convention.
Though placing in competition might be important for some musicians, Thorpe noted the event is much more than a day of friendly competition. On Friday, the Surry Arts Council sponsored workshops in conjunction with the convention, and many musicians and fans arrived at the park far ahead of the event.
“A lot of people get here and start camping more than a week before (the convention),” explained Thorpe. “A lot of people make it their vacation.”
Thorpe said that’s beneficial for the community as a whole.
“Those who don’t camp here (at the park) are staying in local hotels, and people are eating at restaurants,” said Thorpe.
Thorpe added a shuttle is provided to get convention-goers to downtown.
“We want them to experience Mayberry while they’re here,” remarked Thorpe.
Results from Saturday’s convention were not available Saturday evening.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.