Fiddle Fans Enjoy New Festival Site

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Andy Towle/Roundup - atowle@payson.com

Clarke Wallace was a finalist in his age bracket at the Old-time Fiddlers Championship Saturday, Sept. 27. Kathy Wallace stands in the background and listens intently to his playing.

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Andy Towle/Roundup - atowle@payson.com

Peter Rolland

Seventeen-year-old Andrew Donald defended his 2007 Arizona State Old-time Fiddlers Championship this weekend, despite a smaller crowd than last year.

Donald is part of a champion group of seven fiddlers headed to Weiser, Idaho to compete at nationals. The champion lineup is as follows: Andrew Donald, Michael Rolland, David Kaemmer, Kathrine Messer, Sam Jones, Lauren Jones and John Brewer.

The 38th Annual Vertielee Floyd Memorial Arizona Old-time Fiddlers Contest brought some of the state’s best talent to Rim Country.

Event Chairman Nelson Beck said Donald’s fiddling this year was phenomenal. “He actually scored the highest score that we can remember in at least the last five to 10 years,” Beck said.

Donald earned a near-perfect score of 880. The highest possible score is around 900. Judges score contestants on their old-time fiddling ability, the tune’s difficulty and dance level, rhythm and tone quality.

Beck said younger fiddlers are generally better, but it is not always the rule. The youngest champion ever was a 12-year-old from several years ago. “You peak in your twenties,” he said.

Turnout was lower this year with around 500 attendees per day during the two-day event. Last year around 600 people attended.

“It was down a little based on the current economy as fuel costs are higher and money is tighter,” Beck said.

Fiddle committee secretary Irene Neal said there were 43 participants.

“We saw good participation in the youth categories,” Neal said. “The young adult was down a little bit.”

The event cost less to put on this year thanks to a donated site from the Town of Payson, the Payson Humane Society and the Diamond J Veterinary Service.

“We saved a lot of money,” Beck said.

Everyone loved the new five-acre site near Main Street, behind the Oxbow Saloon.

“It made the difference this year,” Neal said.

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