Berlin Fiddler's Convention This Weekend - Celebrating 20 Years of Free Bluegrass and Dancing in the Street
Berlin, MD has been bustling lately, in the midst of a business Renaissance thanks to the recent opening of two new restaurants -- Si Culi and Tex Mex and Beyond, and a number of specialty shops including the Maryland Wine Bar, Sisters, an old-fashioned candy shop, and World of Toys. The busy streets are sure to continue with the planned openings of even more restaurants and businesses in the near future. But this weekend, it's an event that's providing yet another reason to visit Berlin. The town's largest event of the year, the Berlin Fiddler's Convention returns, and this year is an even bigger reason to celebrate as it's the 20th Anniversary.
The Berlin Fiddler's Convention offers three days of completely free Bluegrass music. Main Street is shut down to vehicular traffic, replacing the space with provided seats, or the lawnchairs of those who came prepared, all facing north towards the main stage where novice musicians and professionals alike all entertain the large crowds. Its not uncommon to see young and old dancing in the streets.
This year's lineup includes Grammy-nominated Audie Blaylock and Redline. The event begins Friday night with last year's winners, Blue Crab Crossing at 7 pm, opening for headlining act Audie Blaylock who will perform from 8 pm to 10 pm. Saturday features good-natured competition in both adult and youth categories for best band, mandolin, guitar, banjo, and fiddler. A Sunday morning Bluegrass Gospel Jam closes the event on the lawn in front of the Taylor House Museum.
If you're considering a visit this weekend, not to worry about parking. There's plenty of free parking either on the streets or in the municipal lots to accommodate what will surely be very large crowds celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Berlin Fiddler's Convention.
If You Go:
- 20th Annual Berlin Fiddler's Convention
- Friday September 21st - Sunday, 23rd
- Main Street, Berlin, MD
- 7:00 pm Blue Crab Crossing
- 8:00pm - 10:00 pm Headlining Act: Audie Blaylock and Redline
- 11:00 am Audie Bayline and Redline
- 12:00 to 5:00 pm Competition
- 5:00 pm Awards
- 11:00 am Bluegrass Gospel Jam at Taylor House Museum
For more on how the Berlin Fiddler's Convention came to be, read on...
Over twenty years ago James G. and Nancy Barrett took a turn off a country road in West Virginia—beckoned by a plywood sign, the spray-painted hand made guide to a festival in the woods. Residents of Berlin, MD and fiddlers and music fans from all over the country are still benefiting from this impromptu decision, the third weekend of September, 20 years later.
The Barretts had been visiting son Stephen at Davis and Elkins in the Appalachian Mountains. On the trip home, their little detour uncovered a Fiddler’s Convention in a small town--the centerpiece of activity that brought forth a spirited sense of community. The Barretts arrived back in Berlin, MD and James, “Jim” had a new mission—bringing a similar festival to his hometown.
By all accounts, Jim Barrett was a man who got things done. He was full of ideas, and had a network of friends and community members he could call upon to bring his often-innovative plans, to fruition.
Jim along with brother Jack, were well known locally, and in the car industry on a national level, at a young age. They were the youngest owners of a Chevrolet dealership in the country—Barrett Chevrolet on Old Ocean City Boulevard, in Berlin.
Jim, ever the “idea guy,” was always on the move, looking for the next project to tackle, or organization to be a part of. He became the youngest council member in Berlin history, was instrumental in route 113 being dualized from the Delaware line to Berlin—which undoubtedly helped with business growth and tourism, and was one of many who fought to have Atlantic General Hospital built just across route 113 from the heart of Berlin. Because of his tireless efforts towards the hospital, and years spent serving on the board, AGH dedicated an entire building to James G. Barrett in his honor, absent from the normal exchange of a monetary donation. There were many other projects, including the revitalization of Berlin in the 80’s. Jim Barrett is synonymous with Berlin—a true son whose extension of purpose always benefited the town he called home.
The Fiddler’s Convention takes center stage in Berlin this weekend. Featuring prior winning bluegrass bands Friday, a fiddling, banjo mandolin and bluegrass competition Sunday, and a bluegrass Gospel jam to close out the weekend on Sunday—this is the town’s largest multi-day event. This festival has undoubtedly put Berlin on the map in the fiddling genre, and local merchants welcome the draw of additional patrons that may not have run across the little coastal town, otherwise.
The performers who travel from all over the country to participate, have truly embraced Berlin. They seem to embody a spirit that is more about the sharing of their passion, than it is about traveling from festival to festival purely for monetary gain. These performers are purists—they do what they do for the love of the genre, somewhat of a rarity in the music industry. What spectators can anticipate are days and nights filled with heart felt free performances, perhaps some dancing in the streets from the all-age crowd, and a sense of community created from the music of the fiddlers, and courtesy of a long ago detour into a mountain town, by the Barretts.
Son Stephen Barrett, now ten years after his father’s passing, reflects on the festival and legacy that his father created.
“It’s incredible what it’s turned into. The first year, we were all wondering what this thing could be, and there was a huge turnout even then. It makes me appreciate my dad and his idea process—and it truly makes me feel he is in town for the weekend.”
This weekend, the Berlin Fiddler’s Convention welcomes home her founder in spirit, locals, and people from all over, for the 20th annual festival—first uncovered in the mountains of West Virginia over twenty years ago.
Check out photos below, by GoodCleanFunLife, from last year's event.
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