5 Reasons You Should Attend the Alleghany County Fiddlers Convention

Looking for an enjoyable way to spend a summer afternoon and evening?  At the top of that list of possibilities should be attending the Alleghany County Fiddlers Convention. This family oriented event is scheduled for July 21st and 22nd in Sparta, North Carolina at the Alleghany County Fairgrounds.  Here are five reasons you should plan to attend:

#1 Be a part of a longstanding mountain tradition.  String music and fiddlers’ conventions are an integral part of Appalachian culture.  These gatherings give neighbors opportunities to get together to share tunes and reestablish old friendships.  Toss in some friendly competition and you have a fiddlers convention.  As you wander through the campground, you will be treated to a variety of very fine old-time and bluegrass music.  Do you play or are you a budding musician? Most jams are welcoming to newcomers.  Keep in mind there is usually informal etiquette that may vary from group to group.  General jam etiquette can be found here.

#2  This is a fundraising event.  The proceeds raised benefit our community.  This event is one of the primary fundraisers for the Sparta-Alleghany Volunteer Fire Department. Entrance fees go to help this group of dedicated volunteers keep our community safe.  Once inside the gates, the Sparta Lions Club offers delicious hamburgers and hotdogs.  And there are a host of other vendors who pour their resources back into the community.

#3  Enjoy a cool mountain evening.  While much of the south is simmering in oven-like temperatures in mid-July, Alleghany County evenings can be quite cool, averaging in the low 60s.  You may consider bring a sweatshirt or light jacket just in case!

#4  You will feel welcomed.  From the volunteer firefighter who helps you with parking to the lady serving a made to order funnel cake, you will experience a sense of belonging to our community.  In fact, this welcoming atmosphere is often given as the number one reason people return year after year.

#5  It’s fun!  The stage show gives musicians of all skill levels a chance to perform.  There is a dance area where everyone is welcome to practice their favorite steps.  If you don’t know how to dance, there are folks who are always looking for a partner and will be more than happy to lend you a hand.

The Alleghany County Fiddlers Convention is more than a music event.  Music and dance help balance culture and erase class boundaries.  This event is a place where new friendships are formed and old ones strengthened.  It has a “come as you are” air that is a unique part of mountain life.  Who would want to miss that?

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For complete information about the Alleghany County Fiddlers Convention, visit their website here.  Photos were retrieved from this site.

For information on lodging, restaurants, and other retail needs, visit the Alleghany County Chamber of Commerce’s website here or call them at 336-372-5473.

The videos were retrieved from the YouTube channel, Lovin’ Bluegrass by Carol McDuffie.  Visit her channel for more great videos.

 

Alleghany Pop-Up Market

pop-up posterOn March 25 from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm the Blue Ridge Business Development Center (BDC) will host a “pop-up” market for direct sales vendors.  25 representatives will offer a variety of products at this event.  To limit the duplication of products, the event has only accepted one representative per product line.  These representatives are primarily home-based entrepreneurs that normally connect with their customers through parties or small events without the benefit of a traditional store front.  A recent method of supplementing that model is having the businesses “pop-up” at a location for a short period of time.

According to Dale Caveny, director of the BDC, the purpose of this event is threefold.  First, this will offer a physical location for customers to access a wide range of items.  There will be products familiar to many such as Mary Kay, Avon and Tupperware.  These will be joined by a variety of other skin care products, clothing such as LulaRoe, jewelry, handbags and accessories, children’s books, candles, and nutritional supplements.  A representative from Damsel in Defense will be offering basic personal defense items designed for women.  The Alleghany County Farmers Market will also have locally grown items for sale.  The Farmers’ Market is using this event as a means of spreading the word about the products offered each Saturday throughout the summer.

Second, this event is an opportunity for those interested in exploring business opportunities to connect with a product vendor. New representatives usually sign up with an experienced vendor who serves as a mentor for the new entrepreneur.  Caveny points out that many of these direct sales ventures can be quite profitable for the representatives.  And experience gained from these businesses often serves as a catalyst for other business opportunities.

Finally, Laurie Brintle-Jarvis, director of the Small Business Center of Wilkes Community College, will be on hand to talk with established and prospective vendors.  The Small Business Center  offers a multitude of classes for small business owners and entrepreneurs.  Those classes range from how to best market a business to accounting procedures.  Brintle-Jarvis also provides individual, confidential counseling for business owners.

This event is an opportunity for the BDC to explore new ways of supporting small business networks.  “In many ways these direct sales representatives provide a model for how business has to be carried out in a small community,” said Caveny.  “Each vendor has a customer network that they develop and grow.  Social media increasingly plays a role in maintaining those relationships.  At this event, we will bring those 25 networks of customers together for four hours.  That networking model is key to the success of all business in our community.”

“Many of the vendors and customers at this event will be from out of the county,” Caveny continued.  “It is our desire that this experience will introduce a new group of people to Alleghany County and that they take advantage of the dining and shopping opportunities after they leave our event.”

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For more information contact Dale Caveny at the Blue Ridge Business Development Center.  336-372-1525 or bdcadmin@blueridgebdc.org

For more information on things to see and do in Alleghany County, visit the Alleghany County Chamber of Commerce here.

Eric Murphy – Special Olympics of Alleghany County

IMG_4593It only takes a few moments of conversation with Ennice resident Eric Murphy to realize he is passionate about sports.  An avid reader of newspaper sports pages, he is an encyclopedia of statistics on individual players and teams ranging from basketball to NASCAR.  But Eric is much more than a casual observer, he is an active athlete through Alleghany County’s Special Olympics program.

A 2008 graduate of Alleghany County High School, Eric became an integral part of Friday night football games when his parents, Larry and Velinda, had a Trojan mascot costume designed and made for Eric.  His contribution to rallying the crowds in support the players on the field helped earn him the Trojan Team Award during his senior year.

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The Murphy’s involvement with Special Olympics began when they heard of a bowling program in Ashe County.  Larry is a bowler.  He thought it would be a good activity for him and Eric to do together.  Each Sunday, the family would leave church in Galax and make the drive to the bowling alley in Ashe County.  They came to enjoy the camaraderie with the other families and athletes. When a program was started in Alleghany County, they shifted back closer to home.

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photo by Lillis Ward

There are approximately 25-30 athletes in the Alleghany program, ranging from 9 to 65 years of age.  They play Bocce ball (a sport originated in ancient Rome), basketball, bowling, and track and field events.  When asked why he enjoys those activities, Eric said, “I like hanging out with my friends and I love sports.”  He added, “I would be lost without Special Olympics.”

Eric is a fixture around the Sparta Square shopping center.  He is approaching his ninth anniversary of employment with Burger King where works as a cook and helps out with cleaning the dining area.  He said he loves his job and has a well deserved pride in the quality of the food he prepares for others.  Velinda hears from many people in the community that they frequent Burger King just to hang out and talk sports with Eric (Eric spends much of his days off just visiting in Burger King).  She said that Eric knows everyone at Food Lion and Hardees, and that they all know him.  Eric laughed and added that the employees at Hardees tease him by calling him a traitor when he stops by some mornings for gravy and biscuits while wearing his Burger King uniform.

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photo by Lillis Ward

As Eric and Velinda describe his day to day life and activities, it is apparent that it requires a community effort to offset the challenges faced by many in our community.  When Eric receives his work schedule from Burger King, he forwards it to Alleghany in Motion who helps with his transportation to work.  The Alleghany Wellness Center welcomes (at no charge) the Special Olympians to their facility each Thursday for nutritional counseling and athletic activities as part of their Healthy Athlete program.  Former Alleghany School superintendent Kim Mattox awarded Eric a lifetime athletic pass to school events, a pass Eric fully utilizes.

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Spin class at the Alleghany Wellness Center – photo by Steve Mason

On March 25th our community has another opportunity to assist these athletes.  The 2017 Polar Plunge will be held at Lake Louise in Roaring Gap.  This event is the primary fundraiser for Alleghany County’s Special Olympics.  Those willing to take the plunge or make a donation can do so by following this link.  Eric is looking forward to his first dash into the icy waters and has a goal of raising at least $250.

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photo by Lillis Ward

Velinda sums up Special Olympics this way: “It is a blessing that we have this program in our county.  It gives these kids – I call them all kids regardless of age – a way to get together with their peers and have fun in an environment where they aren’t judged by what they can’t do.  Eric is fortunate.  If he didn’t have Special Olympics he would still get to bowl with his dad or go to ballgames.  Many of the others aren’t that lucky.  This program helps keep them active, and provides the social and physical outlets they need for healthy lives.”

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Want to help?  In addition to registering for the Polar Plunge or donating online, feel free to contact the following volunteers to see how you can contribute to this program.

BJ Edwards     336-306-4555

Linda Tucker  336-372-5432

Lillis Ward      336-529-3133

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Get Outside Mountain Relay

gomrJune 2, 2017 will usher in the inaugural running of the Get Outside Mountain Relay (GOMR).  Runners will be treated to scenic mountain backroads flanked by thousands of Frasier Firs and farms that have been tended by the same families for decades.  The winding route will cover 104 miles of Alleghany County landscape that ranges from the high ridgelines of the Blue Ridge Parkway to the New River bottom lands.

Teams will be comprised of 4 to 12 individual runners.  The 104 mile route will be broken into 18 separate legs with an exchange point at each leg.  Depending on team size, each runner will run 3 to 9 legs.  Teams will cover the course twice for a total of 208 miles.

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So, what sets GOMR apart from similar races?  Other relays have a point to point route and requires teams to provide their own transportation during the race.  This leads to team members often being strung out along the length of the relay and spending little time together.  GOMR organizers will provide transportation to and from each exchange point, resulting in cost savings for the team.  Since GOMR has a circular route, teams will be provided a campsite that serves as a hub or base.  This base camp will have a festival atmosphere where runners can interact with local artisans, food vendors, volunteers and other teams.  The desire is to create a strong sense of community between the teams and local citizens as together they form the “GOMR Nation.”

“Community” is a word that comes up often when talking with race organizers Donny and Wendy McCall.  The course covers virtually all communities in Alleghany County.  The McCalls anticipate 300 Alleghany County residents volunteering to make this race a reality.  They want runners to get a feel for the varied landscape of Alleghany County and the warmth of its residents.

Donny is known by many for his appearance on the reality television show, Shark Tank.  As he pitched his idea to the venture capitalists, a recurring theme was his desire to use his business as means of adding to the economic vitality of Alleghany County.  That unwavering commitment to the community and Donny’s unwillingness to outsource production elements of his product frustrated the sharks who were focused on the company’s bottom line.  His refusal to bend led to numerous blogs, articles and this ABC report that debated the merits of his steadfast desire to have his product made in America.  Donny’s focus on social entrepreneurship have carried over to GOMR.

The McCall’s desire is for GOMR to provide an economic “shot in the arm” for Alleghany County.  Their goal is to bring 100 teams – 1000 runners – to Alleghany County for the weekend.  They hope those runners have such an enjoyable time that they return to bike those same backroads, take a float trip down the New River, start a business, or listen to some of the finest traditional music in the region.

The Get Outside Mountain Relay is much more that a race.  It is a chance to be a part of something new and a way to exchange the hot temperatures of the lowlands for cool Alleghany evenings.  It is a way to explore a mountain community up close and personal.  Most of all, it will be a weekend where a new running community formed.

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For more information on the Get Outside Mountain Relay, visit their website here.  You can email them at contact@getoutsidemountainrelay.com or talk with them by phone at 336-363-4984.  Or you follow them on Facebook.

Click here for registration information and discount deadlines.

For more information on Alleghany County visit their website here.

Material for this blog first appeared in the Alleghany News.

 

Backwoods Beat Music Festival

Singers, songwriters, and storytellers will converge on Sparta, NC, May 13 & 14, as SkyLine/SkyBest presents the first Backwoods Beat Music Festival in Sparta’s Crouse Park.

Tim & Myles Thompson, a Nashville father/son duo perform Friday, May 13, 7pm, and will teach a songwriting workshop Saturday, May 14. Kate Campbell, a popular performer with Sparta audiences, returns to teach songwriting with Tim & Myles on Saturday, and performs Saturday evening at 7pm. Galax native, Dori Freeman, opens the Saturday evening performance at 6:30pm.

The festival events will open Friday and Saturday evenings at 6pm. Admission Friday is $5/person. Admission Saturday is $10/person. If you bring your ticket from Friday night, Saturday’s admission will be half-off. Kids 12 and under are free.

A variety of food vendors will be on-site before the performances begin. Craft beer and wine will be available from Round Peak Winery and Skull Camp Brewery. Crouse Park is located at Grayson & Whitehead St., Sparta. Free parking is available in surrounding lots.

“We want to bring all types of music lovers to Sparta,” says Festival Chairman, Barbara Halsey. “The Festival will encourage a sense of community while it offers Workshop participants the chance to learn songwriting skills from experienced artists.”

The Saturday songwriting workshop is free to the first 60 registrants, with a $10 registration fee covering lunch and a tee shirt. The morning session begins at 9am. After a lunch break, the afternoon session goes until 3pm. Students will have the benefit of a session with Tim & Myles, and a session with Kate. Private sessions with the instructors are available after the workshop for $30/half-hour, $60/hour. Call the Alleghany Chamber,  336-372-5473 for details.  Registration closes May 9.

To register for the songwriting workshop, visit the Backwoods Beat Facebook event page, the Alleghany Chamber website, http://www.VisitAlleghanyNC.com, or pick up a form at the Chamber office, 58 S. Main St., Sparta. Funding for the workshop was made available through the Arts Guild of Alleghany and the North Carolina Arts Council.

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Tim and Myles Thompson are a father-son duo who will be teaching songwriting workshops during the Backwoods Beat Music Festival, and headlining on the Crouse Park Stage Friday evening at 7pm.

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Tim and Myles Thompson

Tim is a Nashville based session player, singer/songwriter and the 2008 International Fingerstyle Champion. He has recorded 11 CDs and two DVDs. He has been featured in three magazines and has taught several songwriting and guitar workshops, much like the one planned for the Backwoods Beat Festival.

Music has always filled the Thompson home; unknowingly it inspired Myles to pick up the violin at the tender age of five! By the age of twelve he was studying music theory and improvising with skill beyond his years – it was clear that music would be his life. Today at the ripe old age of twenty-one Myles is also a prolific singer/songwriter and mandolin player.

No one music genre totally encompasses the Thompson’s repertoire. Is it acoustic rock, pop, country, Celtic, jazz, funk? The simple answer is yes to all of the above. To experience a Thompson performance is to remember the experience.   http://timandmylesthompson.com/

Kate Campbell is a singer-songwriter whose past performances have developed a strong Sparta fan base. On Saturday Kate will be teaching workshops during the day and will perform on Saturday evening at 7pm on the Crouse Park Stage.

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Kate Campbell at MerleFest

Campbell has a musical career spanning over 20 years. She has always resisted the temptation to follow musical trends, and instead has decided to set her own pace for her unique musical journey. Campbell is originally from the Mississippi Delta and is the daughter of a Baptist preacher. Her formative years were spent in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and the experiences she gained from that difficult period of time shaped her life as well as her songwriting. Campbell’s music, which effortlessly combines Southern rock, rhythm and blues, and soul, is filled with cultural themes from her upbringing. Her music continues to inspire and excite a growing fan base. http://www.katecampbell.com/

Dori Freeman is a 24-year-old singer and songwriter from Galax, Va. who will open for Kate Campbell  at 6:30pm on Saturday evening.

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Dori Freeman

Freeman comes from a family rooted in art and tradition. Her grandfather, Willard Gayheart, is an artist and guitar player, and her father, Scott Freeman, is a multi-instrumentalist and music instructor. While her style subscribes to no one genre, the influence of her Appalachian upbringing lies at the core of her music — heard especially in the lulling mountain drawl of her voice. She sings without affect and with striking clarity, delivering each song carefully and earnestly. Her recently released CD was named by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the top 35 most anticipated country CDs of 2016.

Freeman’s style was shaped by American Roots music:  Bluegrass, Rhythm and Blues, and Old Country. Her early introduction to musicians like Doc Watson, The Louvin Brothers, and Peggy Lee have heavily influenced her modern yet timeless sound. Dori learned how to play the guitar at fifteen and began writing her own material a few years later, citing Rufus Wainwright and his haunting melodies and achingly honest lyrics as the spark that inspired her to pen her first song. Her songs often center on heartache and pining; unrequited and sometimes unconventional love are common muses for her melodies and lyrics.  http://www.dorifreeman.com/

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This post was based on a press release by Jennifer Swenk.

Amythyst Kiah – Mountain Soul Concert Series

Amythyst Kiah

Amythyst Kiah

Musician and songwriter, Amythyst Kiah is coming to Sparta on November 22nd as part of the Mountain Soul concert series.   She will perform at the Christ Church on Hwy. 21 South, Sparta at 6:30 pm.  In cooperation with the Grassroots Arts Project, a matinee performance will be held at 2:00 pm at the The Priser Theater on 22 S. Main Street, Sparta    Both performances are free to the public.

Ms.  Kiah is a Southern Gothic, alt-country blues singer/songwriter based out of Johnson City, TN which has been her permanent residence for nearly a decade. She will play original material as well as her renditions of blues and country classics.  She will discuss the African American influences in her music, and how she has merged traditional and contemporary roots music to create her own unique sound.

Her musical influences are eclectic and span across decades. She draws heavily from Old Time music (Mississippi Sheiks, Son House, Jimmie Rodgers, Olla Belle Reed, Carter Family) and is inspired by vocal stylings of R&B and Country music from the ’50s-’70s (Big Mama Thornton, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Mahalia Jackson, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn.) She blends those influences with those of contemporary artists that have similar powerful vocal integrity (Adele, Florence and the Machine, Megan Jean and the KFB, Janelle Monae, Thom Yorke, Tori Amos, Bonnie Raitt). Her sound has been described as raw and sparse, with heavy lyrical content regarding such themes as loss and betrayal.

Ms. Kiah has performed on Mountain Stage and Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City as a singer and guitarist for the East Tennessee Old Time Pride Band, opened solo for Tim O-Brien and Darrell Scott at the Barter Theatre in Abington, VA, and she performed at the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival 2012 alongside the Ebony Hillbillies and Sparky and Rhonda Rucker.

CDs will be on sale after each concert.

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This program is supported by the Grassroots Arts Project of the Arts Guild, and by the NC Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources. For more information contact grassrootsartspromo@gmail.com.

For more information about the artist go to http://musiccityroots.com/artist/amythyst-kiah/

NC Mountain Arts Adventure Studio Tour 2015

tour 001Mid-October is one of the best times to visit Alleghany County.  Backroads wind through the county revealing beautiful fall foliage canopying each curve.  The days are light-jacket crisp with cool, but moderate temperatures.  Leftover pumpkins litter the fields as farmers take a brief break before beginning the Christmas tree the harvest.  An easy conversation can begin by asking the locals who the Appalachian State Mountaineers play that week.

A welcome addition to this autumn ritual is the NC Mountain Arts Adventure studio tour.  It is a great opportunity to visit with the artists where the art is made.  The tour is self-paced and guests can set out to cover all 16 artists, or choose to spend more time getting to know a few of the craftsmen.

Jewelweed Studio is number 6 on the tour.  Located at 185 Gumtree Lane, Sparta, Gary Medley and Alan Joyce create true works of art in stained glass.  Examples of their work can be found at http://www.jewelweedstudio.com/ or you can follow them on Facebook here.

Cave Rock Chapel

Cave Rock Chapel – Stained glass by Jewelweed Studio

Carolina Farm Table is located in Sparta at the corner of East Doughton and Alleghany Street beside the Alleghany Law Enforcement Center.  Their custom furniture shop specializes in handcrafted farm tables.  Their product line can be viewed at http://www.carolinafarmtable.com/ and here on Pinterest.  A profile of co-owner Devin Ulery can be read on the Absolutely Alleghany blog.

Handcrafted by Carolina Farm Table

Handcrafted by Carolina Farm Table

Located on Main Street in Sparta, Studio Redwood offers a variety of art classes including painted furniture and faux finish.  Offered for sale are one of a kind repurposed furniture, framed prints and whimsical, handmade items.  Owner Chris Davis’ work can be seen here on Studio Redwood’s Facebook page.

Art students at Studio Redwood

Art students at Studio Redwood

High on a hill overlooking the mountains, Mountain Jazmin Baskets owner Kathryn Abernathy weaves a variety of natural materials into intricate and aesthetically pleasing baskets.  While each basket is a piece of art, all are practical and functional.  Mountain Jazmin Baskets is located at 292 Walnut Branch Church Rd., Sparta, NC.

Mountain Jazmin Baskets

The natural beauty of Alleghany County coupled with the work of fine artists reinforces the opinion of many that fall is truly the best season of the year.

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tour map

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