Fiddlers take over Berlin Main St.
BERLIN — The Grammy-nominated band Audie Blaylock and Redline will headline the first night of this year’s Berlin Fiddlers Convention, a three-day celebration of bluegrass music starting this Friday, Sept. 21.
As it is the 20th anniversary of the event, the weekend will honor festival founder the late Jim Barrett. Each year over the past two decades, the weekend brings thousands of bluegrass enthusiasts to sit on Main Street and listen to more than 50 solo bluegrass musicians and bands from around the country at no cost.
Barrett, who passed away in 2004, was a well-known community booster and businessman through the Barrett Chevrolet dealership.
The idea to start a fiddlers convention was sparked after Jim and his wife, Nancy, went to visit their son Stephen at college in West Virginia.
“They came to visit for a parents’ weekend, and as they were driving back home, they passed an ongoing fiddlers convention on the road,” said Stephen Barrett, who now runs Barrett Chevrolet with his brothers Russ and John.
“Out of curiosity, they went to the convention and ended up staying the night. After their experience, they knew it would be a good event to bring to Berlin,” he said.
Along with the numerous nods to Jim Barrett that will occur over the weekend, careful observers of the event’s poster will find his face painted on the orange moon in the background.
“It’s a great honor for him to be recognized this weekend,” Stephen. said.
After winning last year’s best band competition, Blue Crab Crossing from Westover, Md. earned the right to open the festival on Friday at 7 p.m.
Audie Blaylock and Redline will then take the stage from 8-10 p.m. The four-piece band has recorded three albums and earned a Grammy Award nomination of Best Bluegrass Album for its record, “A Tribute to Jimmy Martin: The King of Bluegrass.” The band has played on stage with legendary bluegrass bands the Lynn Morris Band and Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper.
The band’s performance is a return to the stage for one member, fiddler Patrick McAvinue.
When he was a child, McAvinue took part in the yearly Saturday competition that gives thousands of dollars of cash prizes to participants.
“I was really happy to hear that I was coming back,” he said. “It’s good to come see good friends and see how the event has grown.”
The fiddler will also play another role in the festival as a judge in Saturday’s competition.
Registration for all participants will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, and there is no fee to sign up.
Awards will be given in six categories: adult fiddle, youth fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin and bluegrass band.
After a repeat performance from Audie Blaylock and Redline at 11 a.m., the competition will begin at noon and last until the awards ceremony at 5 p.m.
Among expected bands to participate is Lower Case Blues from Newark, Md., who has played many shows in the area. The band performed at Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Del. this summer, which was headlined by The Killers, The Black Keys and Jack White.
One member of another band expected to perform is a third generation relative of local musician Frank Nanna’s family. Youngster Frankie Nanna is guitarist of the Psycho Exploding Orangutans, a band consisting of four musicians between 10 and 13 years old. The band’s fiddler Andrew Vogt is featured as the young boy drawn on the event’s poster.
Though Frank Nanna and Friends will not play at this year’s festival, the elder Frank was instrumental in booking bands this year, as he has done each year since the festival’s inception.
On Sunday, the festival will culminate in the Bluegrass Gospel Jam at the Calvin B. Taylor House Museum on North Main Street from 11 a.m. until the musicians are too tired to pluck another string.
For more information on the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Fiddlers Convention, visit www.berlinchamber.org.