2017 Weiser report from National Oldtime Fiddler’s Contest and Festival

Another fun filled two weeks at the annual National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest and Festival in Weiser, ID has just concluded. There were the official, world-renowned contests taking place in the high school for fiddlers of all ages from Monday, June 19th- Saturday, June 24th, but there were also stages throughout the town with performances and contests. Workshops and classes on sorts of instruments and folk arts, both indoors and outdoors, were held in various locations.

Then of course there are the spontaneous jam sessions of old time, bluegrass, Texas swing, and swing jazz in the campgrounds for two solid weeks of remarkable music making from Monday, June 12th through Saturday the 24th when the last contests finish and the town celebrates with a parade, final awards, parties, and goodbyes. The high level jam sessions throughout the campgrounds are actually a main draw for many, and are populated with professional level musicians and teachers from all over the world. I met folks from the western states, but I also met folks who had come from all parts of the continental US, Hawaii, Alaska, Australia, and Japan.

There were classes and workshops on all the major bluegrass, old time, and string swing instruments at various levels and styles from beginner through advanced, but there also were workshops in other folk arts like old time banjo making and pie making, which one does not see at many other festivals. One can also take guided tours of the museum right there at the festival to learn about the history of the region. The backstage room for the contests is also a wonderful testimony to their interest and respect for their music history. The walls are covered with old newspaper articles about the music, the festival, and the musicians from the 65 years that the festival has been running. There was even a hoppin’ old style western swing dance on Sunday night with great live bands.

A new feature this year at Weiser was the the renovations of the historic Slocum Hall which is located in the middle of the festival jamming and merchandise area. People can now rent a basic room for their festival accommodations right in Slocum Hall. The hall was built in 1909 and was used as be a boys dormitory for years. Folks can become a sponsor of this renovation project with tax deductible donations. The National Old Time Fiddler’s Inc. is a 501(c)3 and is running the restoration process. If one sponsors a room for renovation, they can have some input on its final look, and also then have dibbs on being able to stay in that room during upcoming festivals. If folks are interested in becoming a sponsor they can contact Gary Eller by email.

Thank you to the staff and volunteers who work year round to make this great event happen each year. This event enables so many fine musicians from around the country to meet each other, play music together, and learn from each other. It inspires up and coming musicians and provides the spark to bring new people into playing and listening to traditional music. The magic of this festival is not just what happens on the stage, but also what happens back stage, at the campgrounds, and around the town for those two weeks each year.

There are around 250 volunteers working on the festival. Each year they give an award to the Volunteer of the Year, which I think is a great idea highlighting the massive amount of work that some people put in behind the scenes to bring an event like this together so seamlessly.

To learn more about the festival one can go to their web site where they have all sorts of information about the festival and how it works, how one can get involved as a contestant, an affiliated festival, a watcher, a listener, a supporter, and even on the big upcoming festivities planned for the solar eclipse coming up August 18th. Weiser is supposedly the best place to be to see the eclipse, so people are expected to be coming in from far and wide, so folks at Weiser are organizing music and a parade for that as well.

Below are the award winners for 2017

Small Fry Division (youngest division)

  1. Lillian Arnold Mages – age 8, Pittsburgh, PA
  2. Niko Quale – age 8, Alameda, CA
  3. Ranelle Deitrich – age 8, Casa Grande, AZ
  4. Jetta Brooks – age 8, Middleton, ID
  5. Josphine Arnold Mages – age 6, Pittsburgh, PA

Youngest Fiddler

Sorella High – age 5, Blackfoot, Idaho

Junior- Junior Division

  1. Grace Partridge – age 12, Rigby, ID
  2. Julian Oliver – age 12, Estes Park, CO
  3. Teo Quale – age 10, Alameda, CA
  4. Tarquin Bennion – age 10, Sidney, MT
  5. Jesse Quintana – age 9, Lakewood, CO

Junior Division

  1. Regina Scott – 15, Tulsa, OK
  2. Ridge Roberts – 14, Granbury, TX
  3. Vance Voetberg – 17, Chehalis, WA
  4. Mackenzie Johnston – 17, Littleton, CO
  5. Sawyer Porter – 17, Middleton, ID

Young Adult Division

  1. Abigail Stepper – 22, Fairfield, WA
  2. Ashley Rose Dreyer – 18, Spirit Lake, ID
  3. Karissa Nugent – 20, Burleson, TX
  4. Michael Rolland – 31, Mesa, AZ
  5. Makaela Shippy – 18, Caldwell, ID
  6. Alexander Sharps – 24, Julian, CA

Adult Division

  1. Jacie Sites – age 37, Rigby, ID
  2. Cody Stadelmaier – age 45, Fort Collins, CO
  3. Julie Miller – age 39, Caldwell, ID
  4. Vi Wickam – age 41, Loveland, CO
  5. Andy Emert – age 46, Portland, OR

Senior Division

  1. John Francis – age 62, Salt Lake City, UT
  2. B. Starr McMullen – age 65, Corvallis, OR
  3. Aaron Lowe – age 62, Spokane, WA
  4. Janet Shelby – age 60, Sagle, ID
  5. Gene Banks – age 67, Athens, TX

Senior-Senior Division

  1. Vivian Williams – age 79, Seattle, WA
  2. Mabel Vogt – age 74, Potlatch, ID
  3. Akiyasu Sumi – age 71, Yokohama City, Kanaka, Japan
  4. Duane Stephens – age 75, Grangeville, ID
  5. Jim McMillan – age 75, Bozeman, MT

Oldest Fiddler Award

Marjorie McFaul – age 92, Spokane, WA

Twin Fiddling

  1. Macy Lynn Keller & Sawyer Porter
  2. Janet Shelby & Linda Everts
  3. Shira Ellisman & Karissa Nugent
  4. Noemi Turner & Ashley Dreyer
  5. Eliza Beck & Rachel Beck

Grand Champion

  1. Luke Price – 31, Portland, OR
  2. Tristan Clarridge – 30, Forks of Salmon, CA
  3. Tashina Clarridge – 35, Mt. Shasta, CA
  4. Katrina Nicolayeff – 34, Meridian, ID
  5. Katie Glassman – 36, Boulder, CO

Here is a taste of Luke Price’s playing from the 3rd round of competition:

Swing Fiddle 17 and Under

  1. Mackenzie Johnston – age 17, Littleton, Colorado
  2. Miles Quale – age 13, Alameda, California
  3. Sarah Stixrud – age 17, Sedro-Woolley, Washington
  4. Kierra Smith – age 15, Kuna, Idaho
  5. Lorelei Hein – age 8, Sherwood, Oregon

Swing Fiddle 18 and Over

  1. Katie Glassman – age 36, Boulder, CO
  2. Maddie Denton – age 23, Murfreesboro, TN
  3. Nancy Padilla – age 59, Bozeman, MT
  4. Jonah Shue – age 46, Boise, ID
  5. Celeste Johnson – age 18, Arvada, CO


  1. Matt Hartz – 97 times
  2. Drew Miller – 79 times
  3. Rod Anderson – 75 times
  4. Joey McKenzie – 74 times
  5. Tristan Clarridge – 51 times

Volunteer of the Year

Dale and Dottie Emert

Less serious and fun contests were also available on the main stage during the week.

“Certified” Category Winners

Monday night

  • Funniest Fiddler – Mabel Vogt
  • Best Male Entertainer – Jim Kuether
  • Best Costume – Marge McFaul
  • Best Female Entertainer – Camille Arnold-Mages

Tuesday Night

  • Best Female Entertainer – MacyLynn Keller
  • Best Costume – Ashley Dryer

Wednesday Night

  • Best Costume – Lorelei Hein Sherwood, OR
  • Fanciest Fiddler – Rachel Beck Melba, ID
  • Best Female Entertainer – Jetta Brooks Middleton, ID
  • Best Male Entertainer – Silas Phillips

Across the street in the campground area there were days of fun contests on a smaller stage, organized by Gary Eller of the National Old Time Fiddler’s Contest. He also organizes the Banjo Camp at Slocum Hall each May. Below are the award winners from those contests, some serious, with some novelty contests open to all and a good time with lots of laughing.

2018 Weiser Banjo Contest Winners

Intermediate Banjo

  1. Carol Gies – Idaho Falls, ID
  2. Barbara Bancroft – Boise, ID
  3. Trevor Bollwinkel – Meridian, ID

Advanced Banjo

  1. Jason Homey – Boise, ID
  2. Emily Emmons – Missoula, MT
  3. Carson Sass – Genesee, ID

Banjo & Fiddle

  1. (tie for 1st) Vince Crofts (fiddle, Firth, ID) & Rick McCracken (banjo, Pocatello, ID)
  2. (tie for 1st) Carson Sass (banjo, Genesee, ID) & Chloe Floch (fiddle, Boise, ID)
  3. Jason Young (banjo, Boise, ID) & Hannah Young (fiddle, Boise, ID)
  4. Matt Renner (fiddle, Coeur d’Alene, ID) & Gary Eller (banjo, Pickles Butte, ID)

Vegetable Throwing

  1. Tonia Dyke
  2. Mark Mosier
  3. Ethan Webb

Hog Calling 2017 Weiser Banjo Contest

  1. Ella Rose – Ames, IA
  2. Dina Blade – Seattle, WA
  3. Joe Baker – Weiser, ID

Air Banjo

  1. Tate Bollwinkle – Meridian, ID
  2. Rod Sloan – Weiser, ID
  3. Brett Carpenter – McCall, ID
  4. Rayne Redman – White Bird, ID

Here is a taste of a casual afternoon in the Stickerville campground as folks stay cool at the campsite “pool party.”