Monday, October 18, 2010

Illinois State Fiddle Contest

The Illinois Old Time Fiddler's Association held its Annual Illinois State Fiddle Championship on Sunday, October 17, 2010.  This was the first year I've been able to attend due to a date and venue change for the competition.  It was a wonderful event and I met many new fiddlers!

First of all, Ann White and her family did a wonderful job for IOTFA in promoting the contest.  It was certainly agreed upon by all in the organization as well, for the White family received an award for their hard work for the organization.  I know first-hand how difficult it is to put on a fiddle contest of this magnitude.  The Bluegrass Shack does this several times every year, and even though we are not a state-certified contest,
I can attest to the fact that there is a lot to do!

They have four divisions for their competition:  Over 70, Beginners (11 & Under), Junior (12-19 years), and Open.  They compete in that order, and the first place winner of the first three divisions can also enter the Open Competition.  The winners of the Junior competition and the Open competition receive what is termed a "travelling trophy."  This is such a neat idea!  The winners keep the trophy for one year and then return with the trophy for the competition the following year.  Every winner has his or her name added to the trophy, along with the year and the city they live in.  It is really fun to read all the names.  Did you know Alison Krauss won this competition three years in a row?  Not only did she win it three years in a row, she actually had the trophy at her house for those three years...and so did all the other winners!  How cool is that?

Now that I've told you a little about the competition, I'm going to tell you how our day went there.  We had quite a showing from The Bluegrass Shack.  I initially wasn't going to go, but decided several weeks ahead of time that I could make it and would indeed go ahead and do it.  From our shop, Chelsea and Dennis decided to compete.  Earl and I also practiced every night to prepare for the competition.  We had students Tim, Colton, Andy and Millie who competed.  Additionally, a good friend of ours, Ron, and Zane, from my band, also competed.

Personally, it was a really rough day.  I have been sick with a cold-type illness for almost two weeks now.  Just when I thought I was getting better, it all went to my chest and I had to start on asthma medications.  If you've ever taken them, you know how shaky they make you.  Not so good for a competition!  I was the most nervous that I can recall for many years.  Chelsea was also sick, and we shared a box of Kleenex pretty much all day. 

The contest was held in Effingham at the Hilton Garden Inn.  This was a new location for the contest, which has in the past been held in Arcola over Labor Day weekend.  The venue was beautiful and suited the competition well, though I think it will need to be larger next year to fit all the listeners into the room!

We started by registering and putting a star sticker on the city we lived in on a map of Illinois.  (You have to be a resident of Illinois to win the Illinois State Contest.)  Then we went up to Ron & Lorraine's room to warm up.  Zane, Ron, Earl, Chelsea, Dennis and I all took turns playing through our songs and picking guitar for each other.

After we warmed up, we went back downstairs to the registration area to draw our numbers for the order of performance.  Shortly thereafter, most of the fiddle players met on stage to play several songs all together.  We went through Ragtime Annie, Red Wing and Golden Slippers.  It really sounds nice to hear so many fiddles playing together!

We found an empty stairwell near the competition room that served as a fantastic practice area.  We used this area to tune up and warm-up before our various divisions played.

The Over 70 Division played first.  Zane was in that division.  Ron and I both played guitar for Zane and he ended up winning 2nd place!  Zane played the Kiss Me Waltz and Chinquapin.

Two students of The Bluegrass Shack placed in the Beginner's and the Junior Divisions.  Andy got 2nd place in the Beginner Division, and his sister Millie won the Junior Division and the Junior Travelling Trophy.  Millie also competed in the Open Division after winning the Junior Division.  She played great, but did not place in the Open Division.

The rest of us all competed against each other in the Open Division.  There were 22 contestants in the Open Division.  I was especially proud of Chelsea, who played incredibly well despite feeling really bad.  She had two near-flawless performances that would have made anyone proud, though she did not make it to the final round.  I was very proud to be on stage with her!  Ron, Earl and Dennis also did a good job on their songs.  (We put in LOTS of practice over the past several weeks, including daily practices together for the past week or two.)  I ended up winning the Open Competition much to my surprise!  It was the kind of competition that you can't really feel bad about losing because the competition was all so good!  I would not have wanted to be a judge, that's for sure.

I have several people to thank for helping make this win possible.  First of all, Zane did a great job accompanying me on guitar.  That's a must-have for a successful contest!  Also, several days prior to the contest, John Bell played through my songs with me and gave me advice on entering my first Old Time competition.  And how could I forget all my friends and my husband for their support and encouragement?!  Thank you all so much!

So now I have possession of the actual trophy that so many others before me have won!  It's right here on display at The Bluegrass Shack if you want to come take a look at all the names and years on it.  It's like a little piece of Illinois fiddle history.


Anonymous said...

Congrats Chris! You deserve it! I'm glad I got to be there, even though I was a little late:) Very exciting!

From Jessica

Anonymous said...


It does me good to see your post. My grandfather won many trophies there and in Indiana in Old Time Fiddler's contest. You restored his fiddle and posted his music!

Alison Krauss played in his garage and I remember him commenting how "that little girl can really play." Little did he know.


Carroll Fulk said...

Congratulations for your win and all the information on your contest. You do a fantastic job, not only playing but all the information on your website. I don't know how you keep up with all of it as it has to take a lot of time and work.
I played in a couple of contest years ago when Alison Krauss was about 12 or so. We played in Brownstown,Illinois and yes she could play the fire out of a fiddle then. Also I don't want to forget Melody Staff Freeman as she won the state contest one year also. She is also a real stand out player as well as a person.
Keep up the good work.

Carroll Fulk