The 44th annual “Fiddlin’ Down the Tracks” Old Time Fiddle Contest takes place in Tehachapi on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 17 and 18, at Country Oaks Baptist Church, 20915 Schout Road.
This year the contest is being held in memory of Matthew Rails, one of District 3’s fine young fiddlers who passed away recently, shortly before his 21st birthday. There will be a story board commemorating his life and a tribute fiddle division in his memory, with a trophy for the best rendition of a hymn or gospel song by a fiddler. Rails loved to fiddle and he often played hymns and gospel songs at Community Church and various other venues.
On Friday afternoon, registration (for contestants only) starts at 1 p.m. The Senior and Senior-Senior Divisions will play starting at 3 p.m., and this is open to the public. Following there will be a Band Scramble open to anyone age 18 and over who plays and/or sings old-time music.
On Saturday, registration re-pens at 8 a.m., and the festivities open to the public will commence at 8:55 a.m., with the Tehachapi Strings Orchestra, under the direction of Gayel Pitchford, At 9 a.m., fiddle playing begins in earnest, with Juniors (13–17 years of age), Junior-Juniors (9-12 years), Small Fry (age 8 and under), Matthew Rails Gospel Fiddle Division (any age), Cello/Bass (17 and under), Open (any age), and Adult (18–49) Fiddle Divisions, plus Twin Fiddles, Picking, Junior and Open Novelty (any danceable tune on an instrument that is not a fiddle or a picking instrument), Junior Band Scramble, and the Grand Championship Play-off for the big trophy and the certification to the National Fiddle Contest.
One of our long-time board members, Dr. B. J. Mitchell, who passed away recently, left us a bequest to fund a Grand Champion prize of $1,000.
On Saturday, the Old Time Fiddlers will also award the 14th annual Howdy Forrester Scholarship to a college-bound fiddler who best exemplifies the spirit of Big Howdy Forrester. Forrester was Roy Acuff’s fiddler in the Smoky Mountain Boys band for 36 years on the Grand Ole Opry. Forrester also wrote great fiddle tunes, which are played by the best fiddlers of today. The scholarship winner gets a check for $1,000, a plaque, and his/her name on the big perpetual plaque, as well.
As always, there is no charge to come and watch the fiddle contest, although donations are always appreciated.
This is Americana at its best, and attendees are always amazed at how many young fiddlers there are and how well they play. So pack up the family and come join us for a weekend of great music. If you play old-time music, bring your instrument and join us in the music-making! Old-time attire, cowboy hats and boots are optional. And if you are a fiddler, rosin up your bow, get your tunes together, and come compete for the $1,000 grand prize.
For more info, call District 3 President Gayel Pitchford at 661-823-8249.
Gayel Pitchford is president of the California State Old Time Fiddlers Association, District 3.