The Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas is now over, along with the national level competitions so closely associated with the festival.
The winners of the contests have been announced via email, but are not currently featured on the festival website. We’ve included below the photos and info made available to us for several of the competitions most closely associated with bluegrass music.
The Walnut Valley Mandolin Champions were just crowned here at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS. There were 21 who played in this contest. Those 21 represented 18 different states as well as Japan and UK. The final five were from Texas, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and the United Kingdom. First place went to an 18 year old senior in high school from Canton, NC. Bryan McDowell seven years ago borrowed his sister’s mandolin and learned to play it. She just got married so he had to buy one of his own. He also plays fiddle and guitar and will enter these contests here at the Walnut Valley Festival. Josh Bailey from Victoria, TX took 2nd Place in this contest, the same as he did last year. Josh is currently working construction but hopes to attend college later. Josh is a member of the Bailey Family Band. Third place went to Rex Preston who was attending this year’s Walnut Valley Festival for the first time. While planning to attend the IBMA Conference he noticed the information on the Festival here in Winfield and thought “O what the heck ‚Ä¶ why not come and enter the mandolin contest.” Rex is a university student majoring in music and plays in a band called “The Scoville Units.”
There were thirteen contestants who played in the 2009 Walnut Valley Festival National Bluegrass Banjo competition. In addition those from the United States, there were two contestants from outside the US; one was from the United Kingdom and one was from Australia. When the cut to five was made, numbers were drawn again to see who would play first. The player who drew the number one was chosen the first place winner. It went to a former house painter now turned musician and banjo/guitar instructor. Steve Lewis hails from Todd, NC and he has been playing the banjo for some 34 years. He placed first in this contest in 2003 so he had to wait until this year to enter the contest again. Steve’s interests beside banjo, guitar and mandolin are hunting and fishing. Second place went and 18 year old from Regent, ND by the name of Ethan Waddington. When not playing banjo, Ethan works in the family’s tree service business. The Waddingtons came to the Walnut Valley Festival last year and their three sons wanted to come again. Mom and dad said they could come if Ethan would enter the banjo contest and so wanting to come to Winfield, Ethan entered the contest and now you know the outcome. Third place was awarded to none other than Sonny Smith of New Market, TN. Sonny is not a newcomer to this contest as he has entered it nine times. He won the contest in 1998, placed second in 1997 and 2008, and third in 1992 as well as this year. One of Sonny’s favorite things to do is to get out his metal detecting equipment and go searching for Civil War relics.
The National Flat Pick Guitar champions were crowned here at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS on the afternoon of September 19, 2009. In this contest there were 37 contestants from 19 states and from Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. When the cut to five was made the states of two from North Carolina, and one each from Utah, Virginia, and Tennessee. First place was won by Bryan McDowell of Canton, NC. Bryan is an 18-year old high school senior. Interestingly enough, Bryan also took first place in the Walnut Valley Mandolin contest and the Walnut Valley Old Time Fiddle contest. These contests were held on Friday. This is the first time one individual has placed first in three contests here at the Walnut Valley Festival in the same year. It is ironic that second and third places in this contest were won by close friends of Bryan’s.
It seems as though they all play in the same band called “Second Circle” Second place was won by Brandon Davis of Independence, VA. Brandon is an IT Specialist who placed 3rd in this competition in 2008. Third place was awarded to Eric Hardin of Warrensville, NC. Eric installs and finishes hardwood floors. Eric placed first in the banjo competition in Winfield in 2004. In the band they play with, Bryan plays fiddle, Brandon plays guitar and Eric plays banjo, but this goes to show you that they can play each others instruments too.