Dormant since its two-year stint in Elizabethtown ended in 2014, the Official Kentucky State Fiddle Championship is being revived by the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum.
The museum announced plans to host the event March 20 in Owensboro. It will feature four fiddle categories ranging from 12 and younger to a senior division for those 50 and older. In addition, musicians also will compete for the state title in mandolin, guitar, bluegrass banjo and clogging.
“The Official Kentucky State Fiddle Championship has a long history and was held at Rough River Dam State Park for many years,” said Chris Joslin, Hall of Fame executive director. “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.”
Presented by Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, the museum plans to serve as a new home for the event and make it a part of its annual programming.
“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,” Joslin said in a news release announcing the plans. “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.”
The third weekend of March is promoted by the Hall of Fame as a “Bluegrass Weekend in Owensboro” and it is hosting Grammy-winning artist Rhonda Vincent for two shows March 19 and the Official Kentucky State Fiddle Championship Saturday, March 20, beginning at 10 a.m. running all day and into the evening.
State and local health guidelines will be enforced regarding masks and social distancing. Organizers also said temperature checks will be conducted when entering the building and hand sanitizing stations will be located throughout the museum.
The original Kentucky State Championship Old Time Fiddler’s Contest was the brainchild of Jodie Hall in the mid-1970s. A long-time resident of Leitchfield, Hall was a monument salesman by trade, and through his friendship with Bill Monroe created the grave monument for Pendleton Vandiver, Bill Monroe’s “Uncle Pen.” Hall also was an instrument repairer, storyteller and musician.
After the success of the first event in 1974, contest organizers traveled to the state capitol in Frankfort and met with Gov. John Y. Brown Jr., who issued a proclamation in 1975 naming this event the Official Kentucky State Championship in fiddle, clogging, harmonica, banjo, flat-top guitar and all acoustic stringed-instrument categories with the exception of dulcimer.
As the new state championship, the event was held the third Saturday of every July and moved to Rough River Dam State Resort Park. The Governor’s Cup trophy, a silver bowl, was awarded each year to the new Kentucky State Champion. Both the contest and the award became one of the marquee titles in the entire Southeastern U.S. and drew contestants from across the world.
In 2012, the contest took a pause for a year and moved to Freeman Lake Park in Elizabethtown where it continued through 2014.
When the decision was made to end the relationship in E’town, organizers said the event was too dependent on the generosity of sponsors and needed a more reliable manner to cover expenses and provide prize money.
Caretakers of the event have worked collaboratively with the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum to fold the fiddle contest into its programming, according to a museum statement.
More details can be found at a new website, kyfiddler.com.