Last week, Lonesome Larry grabbed the bull by the horns and rode into the Fiddling Capital of the World–otherwise known as Weiser, Idaho–for the 60th annual Weiser Fiddle Festival and the National Old Time Fiddler’s Contest.
Fiddling first came to Weiser in 1863, when emigrants crossing the country in covered wagons would stop at the area’s way station for rest and recreation. The town’s first fiddle contest was held in 1914, but the present-day annual contest was started by former Weiser Chamber of Commerce Secretary Blaine Stubblefield in 1953.
Stubblefield, a fiddler and folk music collector who grew up in Oregon’s Wallowa Valley, spent several years researching fiddle music for the Library of Congress. In 1853, he asked Weiser’s chamber of commerce for $175 to finance a fiddle contest during the intermission of the town’s annual Square Dance Festival. The contest, then called the Northwest Mountain Fiddler’s Contest, became the annual event that is still celebrated each year.
Today, the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest boasts close to 3 50 contestants and eight divisions. More than 1,100 volunteers come together annually to support this spectacular, nationally recognized event, which is accompanied by a week-long festival including vendors, a parade, a carnival, and free daytime shows in the town’s parks.
Lonesome Larry quenched his thirst with lemonade, took a ride on a mechanical bull, and caught a show by Betty and Ozark Mountain Music.
Places like Weiser–a small town with a big tradition–are a huge part of what makes Idaho special. Like the iconic salmon that make their way up Idaho’s rivers and streams each year, fiddling has been included in the region’s identity for as long as anyone can remember. Right up there with rodeos and huckleberry pie, it is one of the many symbols that captures our hearts and makes natives–like Larry–proud to be Idahoans.