Those of you who subscribe to The Mount Airy News will know that I spent some time recently covering the Mount Airy Fiddlers Convention, but what you may not know is that I had a blast!
I’d say I find it surprising that more locals don’t know a thing in the world about the fiddlers convention, but a couple of years ago, I was one of those locals, so I can’t say much about that.
I have covered the Galax Fiddlers Convention a few times, but I only went to that one once with friends. I had a good time there, but nothing like the good time I had at this fiddlers convention the past two years.
I know that people think they probably have to dig bluegrass and old-time music to have a good time — not true. I like the music, but I can’t say I’m a huge fan.
Here’s what makes it so great, there are some really talented people there, the people there are either laid back relaxing or jamming with friends and I found everyone easy to talk to. There’s just a really cool vibe there.
Last year, when I didn’t have to work, I got to go at night with a friend. We walked around listening to people jam. There were friendly people who were passing us solo cups filled with good libations and I thought that was cool. It was just a fun way to hear some great music and meet new people.
This year, something really cool happened. I went up there on Thursday with our new intern Rachel McAuley and at first it looked like there just wasn’t a whole lot going on. It was pretty quiet. But, before long a nice older gentleman asked us if we were Jehovah’s Witnesses. That was pretty funny, so that got the ball rolling pretty quickly on what became a friendship with Don Burnette that I hope will last a lifetime.
Don had a golf cart and since there is a lot of ground to cover in Veterans Park, he was nice enough to give us a ride around to meet some folks.
First, he took us up on what is referred to as “Hippie Hill” where we met a lot of nice folks. We met a guy from Tennessee who had driven an old school bus there. He was having a cold beverage and it wasn’t even lunch time, and I’m OK with that.
Then we met a chiropractor and his brother. Not far away from his tent we met a group of musicians who were playing the most magical tune. What was striking about the group was one girl that was wearing a pink dress that reminded me of the dresses worn back in the 1950s. She was sitting there with her blond hair in a bun playing her guitar with a group of musicians. It’s that kind of sight that just makes going up there so cool.
At the next camp site we visited there were a group of musicians just getting down. As I started to really look at them playing, I noticed the lead singer of Donna the Buffalo, Tara Nevins. Years ago I dated a guy who was a super fan of the group, so I’ve seen them play at Floyd Fest and a bunch of other places. I knew exactly who I was looking at and this was the first time I’d heard her sing for free.
Don said I had a meltdown like a 13-year-old girl. And, he was right. I mean when do you randomly walk around and run into a star like her? She pointed out Jeb Puryear, also a lead singer with the group. I hate to admit this, but I didn’t recognize him at first because he wasn’t wearing a hat and — well, I was having a teenage meltdown. It took me a few minutes, but I finally caught on. I’m a little slow, I’ll admit it.
I walked on air the rest of the day. I kept thinking, “How cool was that?” I know my co-workers got tired of hearing it for sure.
The next day, it rained, so the performances were move inside. They were using a single microphone and everyone sounded great. I took a picture that night of Nancy Sluys of Westfield playing her fiddle just before going on stage. I later found out that apparently she’s an old-time legend as well. It just goes to show that you never know who you are going to run into up there.
On Saturday, I went back one last time. It was so muddy, but with help from my buddy Don, I managed to get my story without getting dirty. I even got to go see Tara and Jeb playing with a legendary fiddle maker, Joe Thrift of Dobson. I handed them copies of the paper. They smiled and waved at me to say thanks and I thought that was pretty cool. I wanted to go back after work so badly, but I just ended up being so tired, that I didn’t make it back. I hate that, because I wanted to say goodbye to everyone I met during the convention. But, I know that I will see them again next year.
So, if you haven’t been to the Mount Airy Fiddlers Convention, I strongly urge that you check it out. You never know who you might meet.
Mondee Tilley is a staff reporter with The Mount Airy News. She can be reached at email@example.com or at 719-1930.