Fiddlers Arrive In Weiser For The National Championships

Jun 15, 2017

Allison Lindley of Jerome, with fiddle.
Credit Tom Michael / Boise State Public Radio

Musicians from across the country are now making their way to Washington County in western Idaho in what has become an annual summer tradition.

There’s one thing every fiddler has on their calendar, according to musician Ken Worthington: "The nationals up at Weiser, the third full week in June."

Festivities have already begun in advance of the National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest. The city has been home to an annual contest since 1953. And it became a national event 10 years later.

"It lasts long enough," fiddler Dennis Koyle explains, "that they can bring their own instruments and sit out on the lawn and play music together."

But it’s still competitive. Fiddlers from many states have advanced to this level. Worthington rattles off the age divisions: "Small Fry, we have Junior Juniors, we have Juniors, we have Young Adults, Adults, Seniors, Senior Seniors." There is also a Novice division.

"My grandpa, Don Wiles, was a national champion in Weiser," say Allison Lindley of Jerome. "And when he passed away, I inherited a couple of his fiddles. And one of them, I just got it out. Just tuned it up, just to tune it. And it sounded so pretty. It had a pretty voice. It just wanted to sing."

The instrument, 120 years old now, was built in Germany.  She puts it up to her chin, saying "It knows the tunes if I can coax them out of there, right?"   

There’s room for other instruments, too. The Banjo Contest, held the first weekend June 17-18, leads into a full week of competition on the fiddle, that lasts June 19 through June 24.

Find Tom Michael on Twitter @tom2michael

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