The tradition will continue.
The Ashe County Bluegrass and Old Time Fiddler’s Convention will be sponsored by the Arts Council, starting in 2014.
On Monday, Dec. 16, the Ashe County Board of Commissioners approved the plan presented by Jane Lonon, which will include continuing to use the Ashe County Park to hold the event during the first weekend in August.
“We are very excited about an upcoming project for the Ashe County Arts Council,” said Jane Lonon, executive director of the Arts Council. “(The fiddler’s convention) is not a new project or event for the county, but the leadership of it is changing.”
The annual festival was formerly hosted by the Rotary of the Jeffersons for 44 years. In 2013, the Rotary announced it would no longer host the convention and would help any interested organization take over the event.
“We decided that the (fiddler’s convention) couldn’t go away,” Lonon said. “So the Arts Council has been doing due diligence, a lot of investigation work and feasibility studies, to see if it would work for us to continue. We’re happy to say that yes, we think it is going to work out really great.”
Lonon said when the event was up for grabs, the Arts Councils Board of Directors looked at the event and how it effects Ashe County. Because of the convention’s focus on the area’s music and heritage, as well as the effect it has on tourism in the county, they decided to take over the event.
“We feel that our desire to sponsor this event is based on several criteria,” she said. “First of all the traditional music is so important to our county and the Arts Council is dedicated to preserving and honoring our musicial tradition.”
Other reasons include contributing to the local economy, and using the funds raised to continue the Arts Council’s Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program.
“We feel that the Arts Council has the organizational capacity to be able to do this event and do it well,” Lonon said.
JAM is a program provided through the Arts Council for the last 12 years which provides musicial instruction to 4-6 grade students in the Ashe County Schools through the 4-H program. The program teaches at no charge to learn fiddle, banjo and guitar.
The JAM program also provides middle schoolers with a six week program and a JAM club during the summer.
“As we look at the fiddler’s convention, we recognize that many of our young people are competing in the fiddler’s convention,” Lonon said. “We want to be able to revive that kind of event for them right here at home.”
The convention will continue to be held at the park. In the work meeting, the board discussed waiving the park use fee for the first year and voted in favor of allowing that.
In the work session, Ashe County Parks and Recreation director Scott Turnmyre said the county did not charge the Rotary for its use during his time there. The reasons were because of the Rotary’s involvement in creating the park and because people who came to the park not for the event could still use most of the facilities.
“It is hard for us to think of having this event any place else,” Lonon said.
The plan was presented before the board to ask permission to use the park, to collect an admission fee at the gate, waive the daily use fee for the first year and to have the Commissioners endorsement as a premire event in the county.
Lonon said the Arts Council will host a meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 13 with area musicians and the community to discuss how the convention will be held. The meeting will be held to help come up with ideas to enhance the event and help it continue to grow.
“The Arts Council is pleased in many ways to be able to use the arts as a vehicle to enhance the quality of life here, to impact the economy here, through the arts, and to have an opportunity through the fiddler’s convention to preserve our musical heritage,” she said.