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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Thousands turn out for Fiddler’s

(Sept. 24, 2015) The 23rd annual Berlin Fiddlers Convention started out on a high note, drawing thousands to the north end of Main Street Friday night to watch a pair of Maryland bluegrass bands tear through sets of standards – as well as a few surprises.
Bob Perilla, frontman of headlining act Big Hillbilly Bluegrass, raved about the turnout.
“We had a great crowd here in Berlin,” he said. “They were attentive and kind to us, and we felt we presented a good side to our music. We were very proud to be here.”
Economic and Community Development Director Ivy Wells said she was pleasantly surprised by the turnout Friday.  
“I didn’t realize that a nighttime event could bring that many people,” she said on Saturday. “I talked to the mayor last night and he and I were talking about bringing more nighttime events because it was such a good feeling. There were a lot of people down here and everybody was having a great time.”
Mike Wiley from the Church Mouse, who volunteered at the ambassador’s stand on Friday, said he gave out 50 maps – a near record.
“I think it was one of the best ever for the Friday night,” he said.
The crowds were slightly underwhelming on the following day during the competition portion of the festival, when Wiley admitted traffic was noticeably lighter.
“No one seemed too interested in the maps [Saturday] – they were more interested in walking up and down the street,” he said. “Some of the store merchants were even saying it’s a little bit slower than they expected. They’ve had a lot of lookers but not a lot of buyers.”
Several businesses located outside of Main Street, including Salt Water Media, set up vendor booths nearer to the central strip on Saturday.
Stephanie Fowler, owner of Salt Water, said she was pleased with the turnout.
“This is our first time coming to the fiddler’s convention, so I really had no preconceived notion of what this was,” she said. “I knew this was a big event for the town, and I figured a couple of hundred people would show up. I got here and it has been packed from point A to point B to point C,” she said. “So many people are here.”
Fowler noted that she saw very few familiar faces.
“I think if you’re seeing a lot of faces you don’t know that means new people are coming in and tourism is doing well,” she said. “It means the town is doing well, it’s a great event and everybody gets supported.”
Beer sales were strong throughout the event, and Burley Oak Brewing Company, which ran a beer tent, had to scramble several times to keep up with the demand.
“We’re super proud of our ‘coolest’ small town,” said Burley Brewmaster Bryan Brushmiller. “The streets are just beautiful and the town is really coming together. It’s great support and the people have just been wonderful.”
During the competition, judged by Perilla and Big Hillbilly Bluegrass,  Berlin-based Blind Wind took home the top prize in the Adult Band category, earning a slot on the main stage during next year’s Fiddler’s Convention.
Chestertown’s The High and Wides came in second, followed by Berlin group Nomadic Baby Sasquatches.
Perpetual Commotion, from Berlin, won the Youth Band category.
In individual competitions, Pennsylvania native Andrew Vogts won Adult Fiddle, while Jon Simmons (Greensboro, Md.) and David Kohut (Bloxom, Va.) finished second and third, respectively.
Berlin’s Mary Mergott won the Youth Fiddle competition, followed by Ocean Pines native Erika Holden in second and Josie Sollars from Willards in third place.
Virginia native Wes Parks won Adult Banjo, with Baltimore native Sam Guthridge and Phil McCary, from Berlin, finishing second and third, respectively.
Taylor Parks – assisted by his father Wes – won Youth Banjo, and Salisbury native Keagan Justice finished second.
Mickey Justice from Salisbury, a member of Friday’s opening act Such Fools, won Adult Mandolin. Parks finished second and Guthridge finished third.
Taylor Parks also won Youth Mandolin, with Williamston, N.C. native Christopher Hoggard coming in second.
In Adult Guitar, Wes Parks again took home a top prize. Bill Vontill finished second, and Justice placed third.
Finally, Vienna native Sam Moritzkat won in Youth Guitar, with Berlin native Taylor Takacs earning second place.
The Country Grass closed out the weekend, playing a daytime set on the lawn of the Calvin B. Taylor House Museum on Sunday.
Co-organizer Morgan Coulson, administrative assistant with sponsoring body the Berlin Chamber of Commerce, said she was happy overall with the three-day festival.
“Our sponsors were incredible and all our vendors were amazing,” she said. “Friday night we had unparalleled turnout and it was clear everyone had a good time – kids were dancing in the street, and my stepson actually won a CD for showing off his moves.
“We had phenomenal sales in the beer tent, and the bands were fantastic,” Coulson added.
She said Saturday was slower than expected.
“We knew going in that other events were going on this weekend, but we were thrilled with how everything turned out and it was a learning experience for all of us who are new to the chamber,” Coulson said. “We want to make sure to give thanks to Nate Clendenen, who did an amazing job hosting. This caps off our season really well and now we’re moving on to fall cruisers.”
The annual car show, also sponsored by the Berlin Chamber, returns Oct. 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.