Bluegrass Hall of Fame to host Kentucky State Fiddle Championship

In March of 2021, the Kentucky State Fiddle Championship will be hosted for the first time in their new home, the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Owensboro, KY. Now in its 47th year, this competition has been held in a number of Kentucky locations since launching in 1974, and is now a property of the Hall of Fame.

The Fiddle Championship will become part of a new effort by the Museum to mark the 3rd weekend of March each year as Bluegrass Weekend in Owensboro, holding live concerts on Friday with all day Saturday devoted to the fiddle. This year will find Rhonda Vincent performing two shows on March 19 (5:00 and 8:30 p.m.), with limited seating to meet state requirements for social distancing. Then on the 20th, the Museum is given over to the fiddlers starting at 10:00 a.m., with contests and events running into the evening.

Hall of Fame Executive Director Chris Joslin says that he is excited to see this legacy event held in Owensboro.

“We are so pleased to be working with Boardwalk Pipeline Partners to present the Official Kentucky State Fiddle Championship. This event lends itself well to managing the number of people in the building because we expect a flow of people coming and going throughout the day. It is similar to a sports tournament in that people move in and out of the competition area depending on who is competing at any given time. Hall of Fame staff and volunteers will monitor this throughout the day on March 20th.

The Official Kentucky State Fiddle Championship has a long history and was held at Rough River Dam State Park for many years. We are excited about bringing the event back and folding it into the other programs and events we produce here at the Hall of Fame. Instrument contests like this attract a lot of young musicians and their teachers, and provides them something to strive for. Fiddling is an important part of our Kentucky heritage, and we want to bring attention to it and highlight the musicians who remind us that this music is alive and well. We are committed to ‘music that matters,’ and this certainly falls into that category. We hope events like this will inspire the next generation of musicians.”

Fiddle contests have indeed become part of the cultural fabric of many parts of the United States, with some tracing their roots back to the early part of the 20th century. Contestants often attend their favorites year after year, traveling some distance to see friends and engage in friendly competition before an admiring and knowledgable audience. Past winners of the Kentucky State Fiddle Championship include fiddle notables like Mark O’Connor, J.T. Perkins, Daniel Carwile, and Jimmy Mattingly.

But the Championship isn’t only about fiddles! There are contests for guitar, mandolin, and banjo, plus dancing, in addition to fiddle competitions in four age groups. Cash prizes are awarded in all categories, with expert judging provided by Deanie Richardson, Justin Branum, and Aynsley Porchak.

Mark Calitri, President and CEO of Visit Owensboro, says that the investments from the city and state to build the Museum its current home are paying dividends for the region.

“Visit Owensboro continues to support attractions like the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum that bring state and national attention to Owensboro. Events like this attracting people from across the state and throughout the southeast demonstrate the positive returns from the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and will generate a nice economic impact for our local businesses.”

Full contest rules, and information about COVID-19 protocols can be found online, along with tickets for the Rhonda Vincent shows on March 19.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.