Listen to the air this weekend and you could hear the old-time sounds of fiddle music on the wind. It's the 34th annual Old-Time Fiddlers' State Championship at Rumsey Park I.
Better yet, slather on the sunscreen, grab a lawn chair or blanket and head down McLane Road to enjoy the music and fun up close and personally.
The fiddling and fun will be Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 25 and 26 on the ball field at the park. Gates open at 9 a.m. both days. Admission is $7 for adults, 17 and older, and $3 for those 6 to 16.
"We're expecting 75 to 80 competitors," said Roy Sandoval, coordinator of the contest.
He said last year's champion -- the youngest ever -- Emily Nebel will be back to defend her title. Nebel, a resident of Mesa, was only 12 when she took top honors at the 2003 Old-Time Fiddlers' State Championship.
Nebel has competed in the annual contest since 1998 and has placed first in her age division every year.
While all the competitors contribute to the entertainment at the contest, the featured band will be that of another past champion, Peter Rolland.
"He has trained more fiddle champions than anyone else," Sandoval said. "He will have a fiddle workshop after Saturday's show."
While Rolland's workshop is primarily for the contestants, other fiddlers are welcome to attend as well, Sandoval said.
The festival features competition in six different age divisions: Small Fry, 3 to 9; Junior-Junior, 10-12; Junior, 13-17; Young Adult, 18-39; Adult, 40-64; and Senior, 65-up. There will also be prize money awarded in the Trick Fiddling Division; the Fancy Fiddling Division; the Cross-Tuned Fiddle Division; the Twin Fiddle Division; Accompanists; and the Arizona State Championship Division. Musicians eligible to compete in the state championship are the 15 with the top scores, plus the top three fiddlers from each age division.
"It's a significant contest," Sandoval said. "Three or four of our winners have gone on to become quite well known. Like Julianna Walker, who is a nationally known Nashville recording artist. Jesse Stockman and Jess Barry have toured nationally."
Winning first place awards last year were Andrea Good, Small Fry; Emily Nebel, Junior-Junior; Michael Rolland, Junior Division; Brian Wurst, Young Adult; Laura Barry, Adult Division; Sue Elschager, Senior; Michael Rolland, Cross-Tuned Fiddle; David Kaemmer and Andrew Gallardo, Twin Fiddle; Sabrina Doshier, Trick Fiddle; Emily Nebel, Fancy Fiddle; and Norm Long, Accompanist.
Past champions include Sol Rudnick, Russell Burris, Hyram Posey; Danny Smith, David Shoup, Julianna Walker, Brian Wurst, Mile Cirillo, J.C. Cortese, Cheryl Brasher, Peter Rolland, Tamara Whetten, Jess Barry, Jesse Stockman and Patrick Clark.
There will be shade set up over the seating area -- and Rumsey Park has plenty of trees and covered ramadas. Vendors will offer food, drink and crafts, there will also be a fiddlemaker on hand. No pets are allowed in the event area.
Dry recreational vehicle camping space is available.
Sandoval said volunteers for parking and providing information are needed. Anyone interested in helping out, can call him at (928) 474-2407.
For additional information about the festival, call the Payson Parks and Recreation Department at (928) 474-5242, ext. 7. Parks and Rec is the official sponsor of the event.