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Fiddler’s Grove festival organizers revive event

By Elisabeth Arriero
earriero@charlotteobserver.com

After an outpouring of support from fans, organizers have decided not to cancel a popular, 43-year-old bluegrass festival in Iredell County this year.

The annual Ole Time Fiddler’s and Bluegrass Festival will be held May 24-25 at Fiddler’s Grove campground on N.C. 901 in Union Grove. That’s about an hour’s drive north of Charlotte.

“We were overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support and offers of help, and so we have been doing all we can to try and save the festival. We want to invite you to our Reunion Year,” organizers wrote in an email.

Although that festival has drawn thousands of musicians to the campground each Memorial Day in recent years, organizers had announced in January that it was ending after four decades.

Hank Van Hoy, whose father, Harper, started the festival in 1970, said that the decision considered multiple factors, including the difficulty of organizing the festival while working full time and the cost of putting on the event. He said efforts to bring more innovations to the festival, including a competition for younger musicians, didn’t increase attendance enough.

The Fiddler’s Grove festival featured not only musical competitions but also workshops for players.

In the early years, the festival drew more than 10,000 people but became a smaller, invitation-only event for some time. Toward the end, it averaged 2,000 to 3,000, Hank Van Hoy said.

But after Van Hoy announced the end of the festival, fans offered moral and financial support to make sure it would continue.

“Please join us for a gathering of friends. We are putting together the schedule for a stage program. Between that and the sound of your campsite jams, we’ll be able to keep the music alive at the Grove,” organizers said in the email.

Meanwhile, Van Hoy’s cousin, Casey Van Hoy, said he plans to bring back for the second year another fiddler’s event – the also-resurrected Union Grove Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention at Van Hoy Farms.

H.P. Van Hoy – Hank Van Hoy’s grandfather – held the Union Grove Fiddlers Convention from 1924 to 1969 to raise money for a local school. But the event ended after it was forced to move.

H.P.’s sons, Harper and Pierce, disagreed over how to continue the event. That led to two competing festivals for several years.

The convention was canceled in 1979 after the event became too big, Casey Van Hoy said, adding that the event had 150,000 attendees that year.

Last year, Casey Van Hoy said “the timing felt right” to bring the event back. That event drew some 2,500 people, he said.

Like last year, the convention will be held on Easter weekend and will feature such acts as the Mooresville Cloggers and the Cockman Family, as well as a number of workshops.

Casey Van Hoy said he doesn’t see the two events merging, even though they’re very similar. But he added that he looks forward to helping his cousins increase attendance at the Fiddler’s Grove festival by distributing fliers during the convention.

“A high tide lifts all boats. What’s good for one event is good for all of us,” Casey Van Hoy said.

In an email to supporters, organizers of the May festival encouraged fans to continue supporting the event.

“We’re not sure where this will take us, but if we continue to receive the support you’ve given us these last few months, great things will happen,” the email said.

Arriero: 704-804-2637On Twitter: @arriero
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