DOBSON — Planners of the third-annual Surry Old-Time Fiddlers Convention are taking extra steps due to the attendance outlook for the event that begins tonight at Surry Community College.
“This year, we’re anticipating large crowds, so we are going to pull out one set of bleachers for more seating,” Laurette Leagon, an organizer, said of the college gymnasium where the convention will be centered.
For its first two years, chairs have been placed in the center of the gym, which last year had convention volunteers scrambling all over campus to find enough seats to accommodate those attending.
“And we had to get a bigger dance floor this year,” added Leagon, the president and chief executive officer of the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce, one of the convention’s sponsors along with local Tourism Development Authority groups and others.
The Surry Old-Time Fiddlers Convention gets under way today with a dance from 7 to 11 p.m.; the doors open at 6 p.m. Back-Step will play for the dance beginning at 7 p.m., with The Slate Mountain Ramblers to perform at 8 p.m. and The Mountain Park Old-Time Band at 9:30 p.m.
On Saturday, the competition portion of the convention starts with registration at 10 a.m. (pre-registration is not available) and contests for individual instruments beginning at 11 a.m. That will lead up to a youth dance contest at 5 p.m. and the marquee attraction of the event, band competition starting at 6 p.m.
“That’s when we see our biggest crowds,” Leagon said.
Last year, attendance was logged at about 2,000 over the two days of the convention. That was up from around 1,000 in 2010, its first year.
Participation by musicians has paralleled that pattern, according to Leagon. “The first year, we had 138 people to compete. At the convention last year, we had 161 — so I would love to think we could break the 200 mark this year.”
The contest offers cash prizes totaling $4,245.
Radio station WPAQ in Mount Airy will be broadcasting live from the convention on Saturday.
In addition to the music onstage, fiddle, banjo, guitar and dance workshops will be held Saturday afternoon in the President’s Room at the college, and informal jam sessions can be found in hallways and outside areas of the campus.
The weather is expected to cooperate in that regard, with only a slight chance of rain forecast for Saturday.
“Even if it does turn on us for a little bit, we have arranged some areas on campus inside where people can still have their jam sessions,” Leagon said.
Luthier displays are planned all day Saturday in the Knight’s Grill on campus, where “Southern” food also will be sold.
Various drawings, raffles and cakewalks are among other convention attractions.
Unlike most fiddlers conventions, the Dobson event does not include bluegrass music and is limited to the more traditional old-time variety.
This did not happen by accident, Leagon said, given Surry County’s role in pioneering and perpetuating the latter genre. This was a big concern of local musicians who help launch the convention.
“That’s why when the discussion started, one of the first things the musicians were just passionate about was this need to be strictly an old-time fiddlers convention,” Leagon said.
“So we wanted it to be pure old-time music,” she added, “because it is such a rich part of our heritage, and we want to reflect that.”
Leagon also pointed out that such a gathering would not be possible at all without the partnership with Surry Community College and the use of its facilities over the two days. “It’s very generous on their part,” she said of SCC officials.
The admission cost for the convention is $5 for each of the two days. Children 12 and under will be admitted free.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.