American Heritage Music Festival and Grand Lake National Fiddle Fest

The American Heritage Music Festival has for over 25 years had the reputation of being high-spirited gathering where fiddles sing and hearts beat in rhythm. Fiddler Jana Jae, of Hee-Haw fame, hosts the annual event which is held at Har-Ber Village, which is the perfect setting for the festival as it houses a pioneer-era village and history museum located on the shores of Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees in Grove, Oklahoma.

Antiques, collectibles, and reproductions are displayed in exhibits representing the mid-1800s to the early 1900s in the local four-state region (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas). But the first weekend of June is dedicated to the fiddle competition, which is certified for entrance into the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Content in Weiser, Idaho. Contestants from across the nation arrive at the scenic lake in Oklahoma in hopes of taking home the certification to head to the National Fiddle Contest. For many this is their final stop before Weiser.

MCs in 2024 were Bob Fjeslstead and Gerry Lay. Fjelstead is the President of the National Fiddler Hall of Fame and Lay is a phenomenon all on his own, with his soaring vocals and skilled fiddle playing.

Judges were Jacie Sites, Joe Sites, and Paul Deweber. Jacie is a three-time National Fiddle Champion and Grand Master Fiddler Champion. She has a degree in music from Eastern Oregon University, and studied elementary education at Idaho State University. She has been a featured performer on the Grand Ole Opry and at the International Bluegrass Music Association main stage, and has written several number one selling fiddle books, won the RockyGrass fiddle competition and the Fiddler’s Frolics Gone To Texas State Fiddle competition. Jacie plays the fiddle, guitar, and cello with the Mountain River String Band and is currently the music director at the Mountain River Ranch. She loves celtic and American fiddle music and lives in Idaho with her husband and fellow judge, Joe, where they own a violin shop and music teaching studio. She loves fiddling, being out in nature and playing with her golden doodle, Gibson. 

Joe Sites is an eleven-time National divisional fiddle champion who has been fiddling since he was 18. Joe plays guitar in the Mountain River String band. He and Jacie have produced several National Fiddle Champion students, and a Grand Master competition winner. He has played on the Grand Ole Opry, and his fiddling is heavily influenced by the great Benny Thomasson.

Paul has been playing fiddle since he was 11. and has placed in the top 5 in the Washington State Fiddle Contest, the Arkansas State Fiddle Championships, the Arkansas Masters Fiddle Contest, the Mississippi State Fiddle Contest, and in the Gone to Texas Division of the Texas State Championship Fiddlers Frolics. He has won the Gambler’s Draw Contest at the Arkansas Masters Fiddle Contest and is the winner of the 2023 Honeycreek Special Gambler’s Draw Contest. He toured with a Southern Gospel group, The Hawkins Family, for six years, and was named the 2010 Gospel Music Artists Association Musician of the Year.

For 14 years Paul played with the Interstate Thirty Bluegrass Band, during which time the band won the Arkansas State Bluegrass Band Contest, and were nominated Bluegrass Band of the Year in the Arkansas Country Music Awards. Paul also plays the guitar and mandolin, has placed in the top five in various picking contests, and has won accompanist awards at various fiddle contests. Paul works as a maintenance electrician at Arauco MDf and teaches Electrical Apprenticeship Classes at ASU Three Rivers. He is the Worship Leader at Wildwood Tabernacle in Royal, Arkansas. He and resides in Hot Springs, Arkansas with his wife, Georgeta, and four children.

Winners at The American Heritage Music Festival were:

  • Grand Champion Open Division – Monte Gaylord
  • Senior Champion – Brent Young
  • Adult Champion – Anna Lang
  • Junior Champion – Josh Wills
  • Junior Junior Champion – Scarlett Arnold
  • Pee Wee Champion – Livingston Land

Weiser sent beautiful certificates for 1st place in each Division. Photos of 1st Place winners and the names of the top five in each division were sent to Weiser for inclusion on their Wall of Fame, with free contest entry for 1st place winners.


  • Ace Sewell Memorial Award for Outstanding Young Fiddler age 11-15 – Josh Wills
  • PT Riley JR. JR. Award – Outstanding Young Fiddler 10 yrs and younger – Mathers Jeremiah 
  • Jeanette Beyer Nottingham Award for Outstanding Young Woman Fiddler – Riley Buttress
  • Jim Thompson Memorial Award for Outstanding Role Model – Monte Gaylord
  • Ed & Marie Richmond Award for the Fiddler Showing Most Progress Since Last Year – Tammy Wilmoth
  • Congeniality Award (voted by all participants) – Junior Marriott

Grand Lake National Fiddle Fest Winners – 2024:

Open Division

  1. Monte Gaylord
  2. Bubba Hopkins
  3. Cody Marriott
  4. Dave Gaylord
  5. Junior Marriott
  6. Preston Marriott
  7. Tanner Marriott
  8. Tammy Wilmoth
  9. Sandra Coleman

Senior Division – 60 and up

  1. Brent Young
  2. Brad Hawkins
  3. Gerry Lay

Adult Division – 15 to 59

  1. Anna Lang
  2. Sidney Cantrell
  3. Riley Buttress

Junior Division – 11 to 14

  1. Josh Wills
  2. Stella Arnold
  3. Izzie Arnold

Junior Junior Division – 7 to 10

  1. Scarlett Arnold
  2. Kylah Harris
  3. Mathers Jeremiah

Pee Wee Division – 6 and under

  1. Livingston Land

Take Me Back to Tulsa

  1. Monte Gaylord
  2. Junior Marriott
  3. Tammy Wilmoth

Twin Fiddle

  1. Monte Gaylord & Junior Marriott
  2. Junior Marriott & Anna Lang
  3. Tammy Wilmoth & Sarah Fellman

Hot Fiddle

  1. Monte Gaylord
  2. Josh Wills
  3. Carolina Land

Honey Creek Special Gambler’s Draw – A tie between Paul DeWeber and Gerry Awa


  1. Junior Marriott
  2. Bubba Hopkins
  3. Gerry Lay

What an outstanding festival. Jana Jae, as always, puts her love and passion of music to the fore, and extends her hospitality, the opportunity to establish everlasting friendships, and puts together the Hope Diamond of festivals in Oklahoma. Make your plans now for 2025, as this dueling of boss fiddlers gets a 10 out of 10!

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About the Author

Pamm Tucker

Growing up in Oklahoma, music runs throughout Pamm Tucker's veins. Her earliest memory of music is standing beside her Grandma's upright, singing. "Trust in The Lord". Little did the 5 year old realize that this was the foundation of things to come. Being very active in 4-H, Pamm was elected as reporter at the age of 9 and held this position for many years. Taking extensive journalism marketing and free-lance writing classes while attending college helped to spark her interest in being a journalist. Her skills helped her acquire the position of journalist for the Northern Oklahoma college school newspaper. An Oklahoma native and no stranger to music, she has performed with the likes of Lulu Roman, Jean Shepherd, Willie Nelson, Tanya Tucker (no relation) Gene Watson and Charlie McClain just to name a few. Even today you can find her tapping her foot to every genre of music.