By Richard Rourk

Two popular festivals are returning to Unicoi County this weekend.

Starting Friday, April 26, at 6 p.m., the Third Annual Upper East Tennessee Fiddler’s Convention will take place at Flag Pond Elementary School, 917 Old Asheville Highway, Flag Pond.

“This year will be our first youth contest on Friday night and we will have a musical performance by the Corklickers for our square dance,” Rocky Fork State Park Ranger and picker Tim Pharis told The Erwin Record.

According to the Upper East Tennessee Fiddler’s Convention website, the Upper East Tennessee Fiddler’s Convention celebrates not only the early influential musicians who made recordings – those such as JD Harris, Osey Helton, John Dykes, George and Lloyd Payne, Dud Vance, GB Grayson, Charlie Bowman, and many others – but also those who played informally, for the love of music and fellowship with one another.

The Upper East Tennessee Fiddler’s Convention is a collaboration between Rocky Fork State Park and ETSU’s Department of Appalachian Studies, with support from the Tennessee Arts Commission.

According to Pharis, the festivities will carry over through Saturday, April 27. In addition to music, there will be camping, food, presentations, and contests. For more information please visit otfiddlersconvention.com or follow The Upper East Tennessee Fiddler’s Convention’s Facebook page.

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Starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 27, the 24th Fiddlers and Fiddleheads Festival is being held at Farmhouse Gallery & Gardens, 121 Covered Bridge Lane, Unicoi. There are more than 20 performers lined up for the day-long festival that has seen crowds as large as 3,000 visitors in the past.

The free, all-day event runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and will include performances by 15 bands on three stages. Jam sessions will also take place on the festival grounds. Attendees can enjoy bluegrass, country and gospel music with performances by local talent including the  Spivey Mountain Boys, Unicoi County High School Bluegrass Band, Zach McNabb and the Tennessee Esquires, and many more.

“The performers will be related to the bluegrass genre,” Town of Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch, who owns Farmhouse Gallery & Gardens said. “The whole thing is built around bluegrass music. All these local kids get their start out there. These kids cut their teeth at these local jam sessions with these experienced musicians.”

In addition to the music, this year the Fiddlers and Fiddleheads Festival will feature an event for area blacksmiths.

“This year we’ve added the hammer in; this gives several blacksmiths the opportunity to demonstrate their skill,” Lynch said.

There will also be vintage cars, arts and crafts, antiques, and food featured at the festival. According to Lynch, the festival is geared towards the arts that are based in Unicoi County. “That’s the reason we do this – to showcase the amazing talent that we have in this area,” Lynch said. “It’s not just music, it’s all the arts.”

For more information, follow the Town of Unicoi and Fiddlers and Fiddleheads Festival on Facebook.