By T. Rasmussen
Monday, June 17th kicked off the National Old Time Fiddle Festival and Contest. A Fiddle Festival Roundtable was held at The Weiser Community and Senior Center. Guest participants Vivian Williams, Duane Boyer, Alex Chavarria, Gary and Dorthy Shue discussed topics ranging from past, present and future festival festivities.
How have you seen the festival change from when you first started attending until now?
Williams shared her thoughts on the changes to the contest over the years, “Well it’s a lot smaller and a lot fewer contestants, but proportionately a lot more kids are competing now. I remember early on there wasn't any Small Fry Division and the Juniors were very midiocer teenagers.” Chavarria chimed in stating, “The kids are not mideocer anymore”, in which Wiliams agreed.
Chavarria shared his thoughts on the festival changes he has seen, bringing up the name changes. “It used to be called Fiddle Festival. That brought so many different people, like hippies and bikers along with the fiddlers, because they came for a festival. In the 60’s and 70’s that's what you did, you went to festivals. What happened was some of the fathers of Weiser wanted to correct this, they didn't want hippies and bikers coming so they changed it to the Fiddle Contest. Those who were part of the contest probably kept coming, but everyone else just stopped coming. The merchants complained because no was there buying or shopping in their stores. So they decided to fix it and rename it The National Old Time Fiddle Festival and Contest, but it’s been struggling to be what it was back in the good old days of the festival. We could have been just as big or bigger than a lot of these festivals you see throughout the United States, we had that and we asked it to go away. When we invited them all to come back they had other places to go.”
Boyer commented on the change of style being played during the contest, “When the contest first began there were very different regional fiddling styles and that gradually changed. Now it’s more of a Texas style. We don’t see that diversity of style anymore and haven’t for a long time.” Williams also commented that Weiser was not the only place this was happening and that the Texas style was designed to win and so people changed the way they played because they wanted to win.
What does the National Old Time Fiddle Festival and Contest mean to you?
Williams shared what she felt almost any of the fiddlers would say, “These are really close friends we get to see once a year. It sounds contradictory, but it’s one hundred percent true.” Boyer too shared Williams sediment stating, “I share the same feeling that Vivian does. You see your best friends once a year and you look forward to coming. The music is a big part of it, for most people music is part of their inner soul. This is one of the highlights of the season.”
Cahvarria went into more depth stating, “We have the people in Stickerville doing their thing, which is wonderful, then we have recently the banjo contest which is another group of people who come in and then we have the fiddle contest, then we have the community, I mean you have never seen so many yard sales in such a small area, you have people who decorate their windows, festival goers, it has changed so much, but what does it mean to me? I love fiddle week more than I love Christmas. Fiddle week is part of my heart and soul. It’s my memories. The music is amazing. Banjo music is some of my very favorite music. It’s not fiddle music, but it’s part of this genre. This week may be one of my busiest, but it is my happiest week. I love all of it. As I come across people they have played together, put this on together and I am an outsider, but my heart leaps when I see them. It’s pure happiness.”
Stories and reminiscing about other past festival activities and such: like clothing style, Weiser Vigilanties, Bikers Rodeo, prominent people of the contest and other good old fun that was had were shared. Don’t worry if you missed out on Mondays discussion, there will be a roundtable discussion on Tuesday and Wednesday from 1pm to 2pm with different participants each day being questioned by Emma George. Head on down to the Weiser Community and Senior Center and have a listen or join in on the conversation.