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For the week of May 17 through May 23, 2000

Fiddlers kick out the jams in Hailey

State competition draws Idaho’s finest fiddlers

Express Staff Writer

fiddlerIdaho’s top fiddlers converge on Hailey this weekend for the Old Time Fiddlers Association State Competition, which includes concerts, competitions and informal jam sessions. Photo by Ken Worthington

It’s hoedown time in Hailey.

Hundreds of the state’s most talented fiddlers converge in Hailey this weekend for three days of competitions and jam sessions as part of the annual Idaho Old Time Fiddlers Association State Competition.

The main event, the "Idaho Old Time Fiddlers State Contest," consists of 10 competitions in several age divisions, including Old-Timers (age 80 and up) and Small Fries (age 8 and under). Winners of the divisions will head to the National Old Time Fiddlers Competition held in Weiser, Idaho, in June.

The state contest will be held Saturday starting at 8 a.m. at Wood River High School in Hailey. The competition runs throughout the day and wraps up with the finals at 7 p.m. Admission to the finals is $7 for adults and $4 for children under 10.

The Old Time Fiddlers are mostly violinists, but anyone who plays a stringed instrument qualifies. And the players are not necessarily old-timers. Players at this year’s competition range in age from 5 to 95, according to Idaho Old Time Fiddlers Association member Ken Worthington of Bellevue.

"‘Old time’ refers to fiddle music that has been handed down through the oral tradition and played in such a way that people can dance to it," Worthington said. "If you can’t dance to it, then it’s not fiddlin’."

An event called "Fiddlin’ Around Town" kicks off the three-day event Thursday. Fiddlers will perform at different venues around Hailey, including the Blaine County Senior Center, Blaine Manor, the Hailey Public Library and schools. Admission is free.

Then there’s the "Gamblers Contest and Dance," held Friday night at 7 at the Hailey Armory. For this event, fiddlers draw a tune from a hat, and play it if they can or fake it—also known as gambling.

During the contest, the Idaho High Country Swingers and the Wood River Contra Dancers will perform. There will also be a barbecue prior to the contest. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children under 10.

What are the judging criteria? According to the official Idaho Old Time Fiddlers Association rule book, judges look for "foot-tapping ability." Does the tune, in other words, make you want to get on the floor and dance? Showmanship will also be evaluated, which refers to any trick fiddling, singing or special effects that the fiddler introduces.

In 1960, Idaho Gov. Robert E. Smiley and Fairfield’s Mannie Shaw founded the Idaho Old Time Fiddlers Association, the first of its kind in the nation. The group now has 600 members across the state and holds a popular national competition in Weiser.

The Idaho Old Time Fiddlers Association State Competition is presented by the Hailey Chamber of Commerce and Atkinsons’ Market. For more information, call 788-2700.


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