published Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Rafter-raising bluegrass in Fort Payne — Aug. 3

IF YOU GO

• What: DeKalb County Fiddlers Convention

• When: Noon Saturday, Aug. 3; contestant registration starts at 11 a.m. (all times Central)

• Where: DeKalb Theatre, 306 Gault Ave., N, Fort Payne, Ala.

• Admission: $8 (free for children under 10)

• Phone: 256-845-2224, 256-845-0203

• Website: russellgulleymusic.com

CONTEST CATEGORIES

Contests run in this order, starting at noon CDT, with cash prizes for the top three finishers: Dobro; Peewee fiddler; Mandolin; Old-time banjo; Junior fiddler; Guitar; Bluegrass banjo; Senior fiddler; Bluegrass band.

The DeKalb County Fiddlers Convention will celebrate its 105th anniversary Saturday, Aug. 3, at the DeKalb Theatre in Fort Payne, Ala.

Musicians will compete in nine categories, including three age groups of fiddlers, for more than $3,000 in prizes. Contests will start at noon with Dobro players and end with bluegrass bands in the evening. Mandolin, guitar and two variations of banjo-playing (old-time and bluegrass) will be featured as well. Registration for contestants begins at 11 a.m. (all times are Central).

"The convention continues to draw contestants from throughout the tri-state area, as far away as Nashville, up into eastern Tennessee, into Mississippi and Georgia," says Eric McKinney, the president of the Big Wills Arts Council and the driving force in the convention's revival almost 10 years ago. "To continue the convention is to preserve that tradition for future generations."

In its heyday, from 1908 till World War II, the convention was among the largest in the South, with many professionals from all over the Southeast competing. Famous old-time bands, such as the Johnson Family from Sand Mountain, made the convention one of its regular stops each year, according to archives.

Featured this year is a performance by five-string banjo master and National Banjo Champion James McKinney, a native of Fort Payne. Now living in Atlanta, McKinney has formed a band, The Night Travelers, with bass player Niki Portmann.

Proceeds from the convention are used by the Big Wills Arts Council to support Arts In Education program in Fort Payne area schools.

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