Saturday night I attended the annual Fiddler’s Convention in Frankville. I had never gone before and I have spent the majority of my life in this community. My parents never allowed us to attend. I’m not sure why. Even in the days before cell phones, they always knew where I had been and the company I’d been keeping before I returned home. This is the one event that I could have honestly used that teenage utterance, “but everybody else will be there” and it would have been 100 percent TRUE! However, I was never allowed to go, so I never went.
My parents were strict, but they allowed for culture. As a teenager, I searched the Arts and Leisure section of the Mobile Press each Sunday to see which Broadway shows and concerts were coming within reasonable driving distance. Most of the time, my parents made sure that I got tickets to these. But going to the Fiddler’s Convention 1.9 miles from their house was not up for discussion.
So, Saturday night, we decided to check out what we’d been missing. We drove the two miles and parked at the post office, across the street from Frankville School. The sheer number of cars in the community caught me off guard like it has every single year that I have driven by the event. We spoke to friends and neighbors as we entered the auditorium, packed with spectators.
The old school building has always fascinated me and I have not been inside of it nearly enough! I remember going with my grandparents to vote there and going to a couple of programs there when I was a child. I have heard my dad’s stories of going to school there and I’d love to explore the halls. I have an affinity for old buildings.
So, I loved sitting in the auditorium with the windows raised and a spring breeze cutting through on Saturday night. The third Saturday each April is a perfect time logistically to host an event in a building that lacks modern heat and air conditioning. The scent of barbeque wafted through and the sounds of guitars, string bass, mandolins and of course, fiddles filled the wooden building. Feet were stomping. Hands were clapping. Voices were singing along.
I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of bluegrass music. I didn’t know how I was going to enjoy an entire evening of it. I do marvel at the crazy, undeniable talents of The Isaacs, a bluegrass gospel group, but that’s as far as I have ventured into the genre. I didn’t realize how many bluegrass standards I knew, thanks to hanging out with my grandparents. I have to admit that I did enjoy myself.
Because every single person I know (except my parents) was in the room, I let my teenager hang out with her friends, knowing that if she tried anything, I’d know soon enough. She tried something alright! She decided to sing in the vocal competition. She didn’t even tell me so that I could be nervous for her! Her song choice was a hymn and she sang it beautifully, but it was definitely not a hand-clapping, fun song. She had fun regardless.
It was refreshing to see so many people using various talents. Young people and older people collaborated to perform beautiful selections. Because there is no cell service in Frankville and there is no WiFi in the school building, phones were just used to take pictures and videos. It was quite nice.
I probably will never listen to the bluegrass station on my radio. There’s no danger of me ever attempting to learn anything other than the history of buck dancing, but I will go back to the Frankville Fiddler’s Convention. It was good to see the community come together for a positive event.
Saturday night I was a tourist in my hometown and it was indeed memorable time. I’ll be back again next year! In the meantime, I am collecting history on the Frankville Fiddler’s Convention. Please contact me if you’d like to contribute. Shannoncourington33@gmail.com
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.