By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(Sept. 27, 2018) After several weekends of rainy and otherwise lackluster weather, the skies were mostly clear during a pair of well-attended events in Berlin last weekend, the 26th annual Fiddler’s Convention and the ninth annual Paint Berlin contest.
A crowd of thousands flocked downtown on Friday night for a free outdoor concert on North Main Street that featured the winners of the 2017 Berlin Fiddler’s Convention, the Lonesome Ridge Rangers, as well as Nashville recording artist Rebecca Frazier and Washington, D.C. bluegrass quintet Only Lonesome.
The competition moved to South Main Street on Saturday for encore performances by the headlining acts in the morning and several hours of competition that began at noon.
By early evening, event emcee Nate Clendenen was able to announce the winners.
Daniel Caton of Berlin took home the 2018 Maryland State Flatpicking Guitar Championship, which included a prize guitar and a trophy. Wes Parks from Modestown, Virginia and Keagan Justice from Salisbury were the runners-up.
The top prize for Adult Mandolin went to Mickey Justice of Salisbury. John Vance from Mardela Springs finished second and Andrew Vogts of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania finished in third place.
Maxwell Brown of Wilmington, Delaware won the Youth Mandolin competition and Jessica Broadwater from Hedgesville, West Virginia was the runner-up.
Taylor Parks from Bloxom, Virginia won in the Adult Banjo category, beating his father, Wes Parks, who finished second. Keagan Justice was third.
Vogts won his second award of the night, for Adult Fiddle, with Avery Davis of Radford, Virginia and Brown in second and third place, respectively.
Brown, who also entered the Youth Fiddle competition, won first place in that category. Mary Mergott of Berlin finished second and Charlotte Haskell from Newark was third.
The Berlin quartet Four Potatoes won the Youth Band contest and the Do-Si-Dos of Snow Hill finished second.
Winning the Adult Band contest, and earning a slot opening the 2019 Berlin Fiddler’s Convention, was Big Hand Low Action of Berlin. The Ozzy Osbourne Brothers and No Strings Attached, both from Berlin, finished in second and third place, respectively.
“We had wonderful talent, which I loved to see,” Berlin Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Larnet St. Amant said. “We had a lot repeat people who come every year and are true Fiddler’s fans, but we’re also pulling from a different pool of people, and having several acts for Friday and Saturday made it really nice.”
The Berlin Chamber hosts the festival.
“I feel like the new flatpicking champion, Dan Caton, who is local to the area, is going to create a buzz for the upcoming year. And the local the band that won and will be coming back next year is really ingrained in the bluegrass culture,” St. Amant said. “The stores all did great and we also want to thank the town staff, business owners and vendors for helping. Everybody really did pitch in. Everybody brought a hammer and a nail and did their part, and it was totally a collaborative effort.”
The Fiddler’s Convention concluded on Sunday with an annual bluegrass and gospel jam, moved because of rain from the Calvin B. Taylor House lawn to the Evergreen Masonic Lodge on Main Street.
“We had a packed house all day long on Sunday,” St. Amant said. “It was just a great turnout all around.”
Worcester County Arts Council Executive Director Anna Mullis said Paint Berlin also enjoyed a solid turnout, including during an awards reception on Saturday.
“We couldn’t be more pleased from how Paint Berlin turned out this year,” she said. “Each year, this event attracts more and more talented artists whose passion and skillful work continues to inspire us all.
“The plein air event provides an opportunity for visitors to appreciate the beauty of Berlin and surrounding areas in new and sometimes unexpected ways through the impressions of these talented artists. We are thankful to them to be a witness of this special creative process we call art,” Mullis added.
The top prize and $1,000 this year went to Brad Ross for his “St. Paul’s Church” oil painting. Additional awards went to Linda Davison Matheus, second place, Debra Howard, third place, and Mateus Costa, honorable mention.
Ross also won the Artist’s Choice award for his “Pitt’s Street” oil painting and the Board of Director’s Award went to Diane Joy Laird for “Main Street Sweets,” a watercolor and pen and ink painting.
Additionally, Jason Witte took home the Legislator’s Award for “Red Door,” an oil painting. Carol Rose, on behalf of Del. Mary Beth Carozza, presented the award.
Costa also won the inaugural quick-draw contest, for the oil painting “Cross-stitching on Main Street.” The award was given on Friday and the painting featured his wife as the cross-stitching subject.
The top-prize winner of the 2017 Paint Berlin contest, Costa emailed a note of thanks to Mullis and the art council on Sunday.
“Now that I am back in the quietness and stillness of my studio and finished cleaning my messy palette and dirty brushes, I have time to reflect back at another wonderful time I had in your beautiful town,” Costa said in the email. “In this second year, I met more people and became closer to others and I feel truly blessed. You hold a wonderful event and I look forward already for my next year experience.
“I hope that my paintings hanging in your gallery, along with so many beautiful paintings that were created during the event, attract the admiration of the casual visitor and hopefully of the art collectors, because they really are the backbone of our trade,” he continued. “Without collectors the paintings just accumulate in our garage and most seldom seen. Art should always be seen.”
The Paint Berlin exhibit at the Worcester County Arts Council gallery on 6 Jefferson Street includes nearly 70 paintings that will remain display until Sept. 28. All artwork is available for sale.