By Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
One thing eastern Kentucky, and Appalachia in general, does well is preserve their music traditions. Most folks think bluegrass and country when they think of those traditions, but there are older musical styles that informed those genres. It was that style, what some folks call old timey, that the Elliott County Old Time Fiddler’s Convention was originally founded to celebrate. But music hates to be put in a box, and genres have always been fluid, so the Elliott County event has dropped the “Old Time” from their name, and this year the annual Elliott County Fiddler’s Convention celebrates their third year of brining workshops, performances, and competition to Sandy Hook’s Little Sandy Lodge.
Events kick off this Friday, with contest sign-ups open at 5 p.m. and musical performances starting at 6 p.m. with 4/4 Hymn, followed by Dreyden Gordon at 6:50, Josh & Mick at 7:40, and the New Beckham County Ramblers at 8:30.
Contests sign-ups open again on Saturday morning, with individual contests, for adults and youth, from noon until 4 p.m. Adults can compete in fiddle, old time banjo, dance, and string band categories, with a separate string band competition set for 6 p.m. Youth can compete in fiddle, banjo, or dance categories. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top three performers in each category except string band. One prize will be awarded in that category.
From 1 – 4 p.m. those not participating in or enjoying the contests can check out workshops in a number of categories.
Following the string band contest, there will musical performances from Chatteroi at 7 p.m., followed by Old Seed, then Matthew Stallard will close out the concert series performing selections from his new album, Hobe, before a square dance to end the evening. South Upper String Band will provide the music with Randy Wilson calling the dance.
If you’re an early riser, the festival is sponsoring a pair of off-site performances on Saturday morning at the Laurel Gorge Cultural Heritage Center, just down the road from the Little Sandy Lodge. Tyler Johnson will perform at 10 a.m. at the cultural heritage center, and Daniel Graham will perform from 11 – 11:30 a.m.
Of course, some folks come to festivals like this not just to listen or compete, but to learn new things. In the banjo workshop Matthew McElroy, of Athens, Ohio, will teach a Wade Ward banjo tune for beginning and intermediate level pickers. In the intermediate and advanced fiddle workshop, Chatteroi’s Scott Miller will be teaching an Ed Haley tune. Meanwhile fiddle neophytes can join in with Lucian Parker, in an introduction to the fiddle workshop.
And, if you already play, but are a little intimidated to join in on a jam, you can join Nathan Kiser in a jamming workshop to get your comfort level up for joining in campground jams at the convention or any other old time jam you might want to participate in.
Once you get over those open jam butterflies, you can pack up the following weekend and come out to Olive Hill for the 31st annual Carter County Shrine Club Bluegrass Festival. That event runs from Thursday, July 14, through Saturday, July 16, and features performances from Ralph Stanley II, Blue Highway, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, Hammertowne, Dave Adkins, Lacy Creek, Turning Ground, Tommy Webb, Fenced In, Southridge, 7 Mile Bluegrass, Black Powder Express, Sammy Adkins & the Sandy Hook Mountain Boys, and others. Of course, there will also be plenty of campground jams for you to practice those newly acquired jam skills.
Both events are worth your time, and support. You can find out more about the Fiddler’s Convention by searching for them on Facebook, and you can find out more about the bluegrass festival by visiting them online at shrinersbluegrassfestival.com.
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