27th annual competition brings plenty of pickin’ too
By Rachel Ravina, Staff Writer
(Sept. 19, 2019) Bluegrass, Cajun and Celtic music will fill the streets of downtown Berlin from Friday through Sunday during the 27th edition of the Berlin Fiddlers Convention.
With scores of musical participants and thousands of spectators, the competition has grown into what its founder, the late Berlin businessman and town booster Jim Barrett, envisioned decades ago after he and his family stopped at the famous West Virginia fiddlers convention on their return from a family trip.
Barrett, who also was one of the partners responsible for the making the Atlantic Hotel the centerpiece of the effort to revitalize the downtown, believed the Eastern Shore’s fondness for bluegrass music matched with Berlin’s Victorian setting would lead to a destination event.
He was correct, given the size of the audience and the high level of competition in the fiddling, guitar, banjo, mandolin and band categories the contest attracts.
Among the competitions this weekend will be the Maryland State Flatpicking Guitar Championship — contestants must play two traditional fiddle or bluegrass-style tunes using a single pick (no finger-picking allowed) — and the new Miscellaneous category, which will introduce to the mix other instruments such as the resonator guitar.
Starting the weekend entertainment will be a free concert Friday from 7-10 p.m. on the north end of Main Street by Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers, of western Maryland and Pennsylvania, and West Virginia-based Robert Mabe’s Irish Banjo. They also will play periodically Saturday.
The competitions will take place from noon until 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Sunday’s highlight will be The Gospel Bluegrass Jam on the lawn of the Calvin B. Taylor House Museum on N. Main Street, with Stevenson’s Crossroads, Blue Crab Crossing and other musicians from noon to 3 p.m.
Larnet St. Amant, executive director of the Berlin Chamber of Commerce, recommended that visitors park at Berlin Intermediate School at 309 Franklin Ave., where free shuttle service will run continuously on Saturday.
She also advised concert and competition watchers to bring their lawn chairs.
Musicians who wish to compete for the thousands of dollars in prize money available will be able to register up through Saturday morning, with registration opening at 10 a.m.
Registration is also available at berlinfiddlers.com.
Area restaurants will also be open for dinner, and food and beverage vendors will be available downtown during the event.