About This Place
Fries (pronounced "freeze") is a town in Grayson County, Virginia, United States. The population was 614 at the 2000 census. Fries is part of the Blue Ridge area, and shares in that region's old-time musical traditions. The small town is home to the Festival by the New River, held in September at the town park on the banks of the New River, and the Old-Time Fiddlers' and Bluegrass Convention in August, hosted by the local volunteer fire department.
The Town of Fries, named for textile mill owner Colonel Francis Fries, is nestled on the north banks of the New River, just fifteen miles northeast of the Grayson County seat in Independence. With an eye to economic deveopment and personal entreupneurship, Jim 'Pipe' Carico of Stephens Creek, VA (the nearest incorporated town) contacted North Carolina cotton mill mogul Colonel Francis Fries in 1900 and proposed Bartlett Falls on New River as a site for a hydroelectric dam that could power a cotton mill. Fries realized the economic potential of the site and immediately began buying up the surrounding rural farmland. He hired a local labor force to build a dam, a cotton mill, and a full-service company owned town. By 1901, the New River Train was extended to the mill site and Fries petioned the Virginia State Legislature to incorrpoarate the new town of Carico, VA in honor of Jim 'Pipe' Carico. For reasons that are not well documented, the town name was legislatively changed to Fries, Virginia and officially incorporated in 1902. Despite heavy reliance on manual labor, mules, and oxen, construction progressed at a break-neck pace and the open call for employment served as a centripital force for worker migration to the town. Around 300 houses, a post office, church, and a company commissary were wedged into the surrounding hillside before the mill began operation in February 1903. The new town of Fries blossomed overnight. The mill continued in operation until 1989. At the time the mill closed, it employed 1,700 people. Fries High School also closed in 1989. The students from Fries, along with students from nearby Independence High School were combined to form Grayson County High School, located in Independence. The current population of Fries is estimated at around 564 people.
A hallmark of both Fries and the surrounding area has always been a rich tradition in Bluegrass and old-time music. The Old Fiddler’s Convention, the world’s oldest and largest convention of its kind has been held in nearby Galax since 1935. The annual convention draws massive crowds and promotes economic boom in Galax, Fries, and other surrounding communities, as musicians and enthusiasts flood the area for the multi-day festival.