DOBSON — The location of the Surry Old-Time Fiddlers Convention is different this year, but organizers say its goal remains the same: to preserve this area’s traditional stringed instrument music by bringing together some of its more passionate players.
Due to maintenance work at the Surry Community College gymnasium on South Main Street in Dobson— the usual venue for the convention now in its eighth year — the event is moving next door to the Surry Central High School gym for its March 31-April 1 run.
Yet the spirit of old-time music will be just as strong as competitors of all ages gather from up and down the East Coast to match their skills against each other.
A popular Friday night square dance, on March 31, also will continue to be part of the event which this year will include performances by two acclaimed groups from Grayson County, Virginia, The New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters and The Whitetop Mountain Band.
The Surry Old-Time Fiddlers Convention is just that — an event dedicated to the old-time genre of music, unlike other conventions, such as Mount Airy and Galax, which offer competition in both old-time and bluegrass.
“I like the fact that they do just old-time,” said Kelly Epperson, owner of Mount Airy radio station WPAQ, which has a traditional music format and will broadcast the convention live on April 1 at 740 on the AM dial and also online.
“It’s a tremendous showcase for the deeper roots of this type of music,” Epperson added Tuesday.
The Dobson fiddlers convention seems to get bigger as time passes.
“It’s grown considerably since the very first year,” Epperson said. “There are lot of people who drive great distances to take this in and I’m surprised we have this many old-time groups that come and participate.”
About 50 bands reportedly competed at the 2016 convention, with groups allowed to perform two songs each.
“It’s a great opportunity for young and old alike to take in this rich musical heritage that we all have,” Epperson said of the fans’ perspective.
Along with the healthy attendance numbers of the Surry Old-Time Fiddlers Convention, event organizers are heartened by the involvement of youthful musicians — a number of children, teens and young adults. This is seen as a positive sign for the convention itself and fans of the old-time genre.
“We’re really pleased with the number of interested young musicians,” Buck Buckner of a convention committee said in a statement. “We need them to carry on the traditional music of this region, and they’re excited to be a part of it (the convention).”
The Friday night dance on March 31 begins at 7 p.m. It has become a favorite community event for both participants and spectators. Also that night, a cakewalk is planned which will offer sweet treats to several winners.
Saturday’s (April 1) contestant registration is to start at 10 a.m. and conclude at 5 p.m.
Adult and youth competitions will take place all day on April 1, with categories for individuals and bands.
Youth competitions begin at 11 a.m. that day.
Individual categories include variety, guitar, folk song, banjo, fiddle and dance, as well as the band category. Adult competitions are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. on April 1, with bands and dance categories to follow. Winners receive cash prizes.
Admission will cost $5 daily, with children 12 and younger admitted at no charge. Contestants get in free on April 1.
Concessions, such as hamburgers and hot dogs, will be available on site.
The Surry Old-Time Fiddlers Convention offers a little something for everyone, in Buckner’s view.
“People can come out and fellowship with friends and neighbors who also appreciate old-time music and enjoy listening to some quality entertainment.”