We were saddened to learn that Harper Van Hoy passed away this week at the age of 92. Harper Van Hoy and his wife Wanona founded the Fiddler’s Grove, an old-time-music and family-oriented campground, which hosts traditional music and dance events throughout the year in Union Grove, NC. The Ole Time Fiddler’s & Bluegrass Festival, a fiddling competition, has been held annually in the spring since Fiddler’s Grove’s founding in 1970, and the Square-Up, a clogging competition was held in the fall until 1982. The fiddling festival, however, traces its history in Union Grove to 1924 when Harper Van Hoy’s father, H. P. Van Hoy, founded the Old Time Fiddlers Convention as a school fundraiser. To learn more about the history of Fiddler’s Grove and the Van Hoy’s legacy in Iredell County, NC, see the Southern Folklife Collection online exhibit Fiddler’s Grove: Retrospective 1977-2000. Items include photos of each year’s “Fiddler of the Festival,” including Ann Warren (1977) and Billy C. Hurt, Jr. (1987) below [photos by Ann Hawthorne], as well as fliers, winner’s lists, and other ephemera, like the 1971 poster featuring Doc and Merle Watson [click images to enlarge].
The Fiddler’s Grove Collection (20016) provides an overview of the history and operation of Fiddler’s Grove, and its main entertainment events, the Ole Time Fiddler’s & Bluegrass Festival and the Square-Up. The work of Harper Van Hoy and Wanona Van Hoy in building the reputation of Fiddler’s Grove as a gathering place for old-time music and family entertainment is documented throughout the collection. Also documented is the split between Harper Van Hoy and his brother, J. Pierce Van Hoy, which resulted in two competing Van Hoy-operated spring fiddling events in Union Grove, 1970-1979. General correspondence, newspaper clippings, promotional material, and other items go back to the founding of the Old Time Fiddlers Convention. Festival materials include participation registration information, lists of winners, judges’ notes, and correspondence, and other items. Also included are open-reel tapes, an eight-track tape, compact discs, and a videotape, all of which relate to the Ole Time Fiddler’s & Bluegrass Festival.
Harper Van Hoy, like his father H. P., was also a fine fiddler himself. Listen to him play “Soldier’s Joy” along with The Bluegrass Gentleman, recorded at the inaugural festival in 1970 and released as part of the excellent LP, Fiddler’s Festival 1970, Southern Folklife Collection call no. FC-787.