UNION GROVE Nearly 100 years of North Carolina music tradition couldn’t die that easily, Jessica Duncan says.
Faced with the decision of whether to stick with previous plans to call off the annual Fiddler’s Grove Ole Time Fiddler’s and Bluegrass Festival or relent, Duncan says she and her relatives took a deep breath ... and relented.
“We decided we’d do whatever we could to keep it going,” Duncan says. “So the third- and fourth-generation family members are putting it together again this year.”
That would be the Van Hoy family, whose annual Memorial Day music festival was honored in 2000 with the Library of Congress’ Local Legacy award.
Since the early 1920s, some of the Southeast’s top bluegrass artists have traveled to the Van Hoy family property in the rolling woodlands of northern Iredell County, to compete for championships and, more often, enjoy the company of fellow musicians and the people who enjoy them.
The 90th festival takes place Friday and Saturday at the Fiddler’s Grove Campground, on N.C. 901, about 1.5 miles west of Interstate 77’s Exit 65.
“We decided earlier in the year to call it off, and we even made an announcement,” Duncan says. “But then we started thinking about it, and we decided not to let 90 years of history die.”
And so a festival which, over the years, has attracted artists like Doc Watson is continuing.
Some friends pitched in. Robin Warren helped arrange the schedule of performers. Musician Lissy Rosemont helped with the graphic design. One of Duncan’s cousins took care of landscaping at the campground. Another cousin is bringing a church youth group to work at the campground’s store.
“It’s a real family effort,” says Duncan, who managed to help organize the event around the birth of her first child, Jack, on May 14.
The founder of the festival, H.P. Van Hoy, died in 1976. His son Harper, now in his 90s, took it from there. Harper’s children, and now his grandchildren, are carrying on.
Duncan says this year’s festival won’t have the various competitions, but they hope to revive that next year.
It will be, she says, a family event.
Those who have been to the festival before will find it much the same. That means storytelling at the stage near the log cabin, and main acts performing on the Grove Stage. Also returning are the workshops for clogging and the various instruments. Those will take place in the so-called “Workshop Row,” under the trees.
Of course, some of the best music is impromptu. Visitors who wander the campground will encounter jam sessions at any time of day.
And as is customary, it’s a family-style event, which means visitors will have to leave their pets and alcoholic beverages at home.
“Just come and enjoy the music,” Duncan says.
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