2018 National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest and Festival report

Weiser, Idaho was once again filled with music for two weeks in June as all sorts of string musicians came from all over the country (and a few international arrivals) to take part in the annual National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest and Festival. Musicians, many of whom are high level professionals, start jamming in the campgrounds, like the well known and beloved Stickerville campground and the areas around the historic Institutes and Museum the week before the official contests even start.

One can find jazz, bluegrass, old time, Texas style fiddling, Irish, Brazilian tunes, and sometimes various other styles of music being played throughout the days and much of the evenings. There are loads of workshops in many styles, and on a great variety of instruments, and even in pie-making held over the two weeks as well.

There are the famous fiddle contests and many contests of a whimsical nature during the festival, which can boast of very high caliber fiddlers in the contests and also among their contest judges. The festival also organizes concerts in the town of Weiser at Memorial Park, along with food vendors, crafts, and a parade at the end of the contest week.

This festival is a blast not just because of the great musicians and friendly folks who attend the festival, but also because of its calm, laid-back feel. No big crowds or traffic, just great musicians and music lovers everywhere one looks, along with lovely scenic views.

This festival also sets itself apart by doing a great job of honoring the musicians who have added to its history over its many years it first began in 1953. They have old newspapers with festival coverage from these many years up on the walls of the backstage room. Every year they officially honor some musicians who have passed on in the last year on the contest stage. In the campground they also have some celebrations of life for fellow pickers who have passed on. There was a lovely memorial to Gene Gimble this year, who had added his musicianship and knowledge to the campgrounds of Weiser for many a year, enriching the lives of so many people who had jammed with him or heard his stories.

For the Fiddle Contests each fiddler must play 3 tunes for each round: a hoedown, a waltz, and a tune of choice. There are multiple rounds in the various categories. Fiddlers also may have up to three musicians to accompany them. The festival wisely chooses to have a single large diaphragm microphone suspended from above, getting rid of the clutter of all those mic stands, and the need to adjust them all the time. Each contestant can just have the mic raised or lowered to their size. Easier on the stage sound engineers and a nicer view for the audience.

Another fun fact about the Weiser contests is that they get the trophies made right there in Weiser. Mic and PJ Boles have been making the trophies the last few years, and each year is a unique collectable design. This year’s trophies had a new modern look and are engraved plexiglass fiddles that illuminate with LED lights in rotating colors. It was fun watching the award winners on stage playing with and figuring out how to operate their new trophies.

Here are some photos and video clips to give a tiny taste of the music, but you really have to go to the festival and experience first hand the amazingly nice folks, laid back feel, great music, loads of oral histories being told on all sides, and all the fun to really know the magic that can be found at the National OldTime Fiddle Contest and its campgrounds every June in Weiser, Idaho.

A little clip of Tristan Clarridge in Round 2 of the Grand Champion contest division backed up by Luke Price.

Marina Pendleton in Round 2 of the Grand Champion contest division

Ashley Rose Dryer in contest in Round 2 of the Grand Champion contest division

A clip of Vi Wickam playing in the light-hearted new Air Fiddle Contest being backed up by left handed fiddler, Katrina Nicolayeff (who won the Grand Champion first place in the big official contest this year).


Grand National Championship Awards

  1. Katrina Nicolayeff
  2. Doug Fleener
  3. Luke Price
  4. Tristan Clarridge
  5. Ashley Rose Dreyer

Small Fry Awards

  1. Brie Dietrich
  2. Josephine Arnold-Mages
  3. Andrew Beck
  4. Aspen Dietrich
  5. Sorella High

Junior-Junior Awards

  1. Teo Quale
  2. David Lin
  3. Logan Bingham Davis
  4. David Tormela
  5. Tarquin Bennion

Junior Awards

  1. Ridge Roberts
  2. Grace Partridge
  3. Julian Oliver
  4. Leah Sawyer
  5. Grace Christensen

Young Adult Awards

  1. Andrew Linn
  2. Justin Sherfey
  3. McKenzie Johnston
  4. Shelby Rae Murdock
  5. Aarun Carter

Adult Division

  1. JayDean Ludiker
  2. Julie Miller
  3. Gayla Tanaka Bollinger
  4. Andy Emert
  5. Grant Wheeler

Senior Division Awards

  1. John Francis
  2. Starr Page McMullen
  3. Sheila Irene Wright
  4. Aaron Lowe
  5. Eileen Walters

Senior Senior Awards

  1. Vivian Williams (age 80)
  2. Mabel Vogt (age 75)
  3. Duane Stevens (age 76)
  4. Marilyn Block (age 72)
  5. Paul Dickerson (age 71)

Swing Fiddle Awards 17 and Under

  1.  Will McDonald
  2. Ridge Roberts
  3. Leah Sawyer
  4. Miles Quale
  5. Julian Oliver

Swing Fiddle Awards 18 and Over

  1. Paul Anastasio
  2. Keith Niehenke
  3. Vi Wickam
  4. Sarah Stixrud
  5. Chad Matthews

Twin Fiddlin Awards

  1. Leah Sawyer & Ridge Roberts
  2. Grace Chsristianson & Shelby Murdock
  3. Will McDonald & Madison Dietrich
  4. Vi Wickam & Doug Fleener
  5. Donna Reuter & Eileen Walter

Here is a tune from Leah Sawyer & Ridge Roberts in the Twin Fiddle Contest.

Certified Awards – Monday Night

  • Best Female Entertainer- Evelyn Horner
  • Best Costume- Ann Robinson
  • Fanciest Fiddler- Star McMullen

Tuesday Night

  • Fanciest Fiddler- Will McDonald
  • Best Male Entertainer- Grant Wheeler
  • Best Costume- Vi Wickam

Wednesday Night

  • Best Entertainer (Small Fy Division)- Ranielle Dietrich
  • Best Costume (Small Fy Division)- Jetta Brooks
  • Fanciest Fiddler (Small Fy Division)- Roxie Sparks

Accompanist Awards

  1. Rod Anderson
  2. Darin Meeks
  3. Jim McMillan
  4. Ed Miller
  5. Joey Mckenzie

Youngest Fiddler Award

  • Sorella High- age 6 years old

Oldest Fiddler Award

  • Evelyn Horner – age 87

Below are the winners from the contests across the street sponsored by the National Old Time Fiddler Contest and Bee Tree Folk School

Banjo Contest Awards – Intermediate Banjo

  1. Maria McArthur
  2. Kim Ray
  3. Barbara Bancroft and Carol Gies (tie)

Advanced Banjo

  1. Maria McArthur
  2. Gordon Acri
  3. Kevin Dryer

Banjo and Fiddle

  1. Rick McCracken & Vince Crafts
  2. Lori Gilbert & Renee Homey
  3. Kathleen Allyn & Petra Schwarthoff

Novelty Contests – Whistling

  1. Landon & Dylan Vance McCall
  2. Cole Hawkins Star
  3. Jason Hawkins Star

Air Fiddle

  1. Vi Wickam
  2. Brett Carpenter

Air Banjo

  1. Athanasius Young
  2. John Larson

Here is a clip of one of the tunes from Katrina Nicolayeff from Round Two of the Grand Championship division. She ended up taking first place in the contest.