Sunday, October 20, was such a beautiful sunny autumn day that you could almost hear fiddle music floating in the air, especially if you attended the Illinois State Old-Time Fiddle Contest held this year at the Thelma Keller Convention Center in Effingham.
The 49th Illinois State Old-Time Fiddle Contest was hosted by Shelbyville’s Illinois Old-Time Fiddlers Association and talented fiddlers from all over Illinois competed to lay claim to being the best fiddle player in the state of Illinois.
Trophies and monetary prizes were presented to winners of the “Over 70 Division”, the “Beginning Fiddle Division”, and the “Junior Division”, with the winners of those competitions allowed to compete in the overall “Open Division” for the state championship title. The top five fiddlers in the “Open Division” came back for a “fiddle-off” to finalize who was the best fiddler of Illinois.
Highlights from this year’s event, besides the state winner, was a tie in the “Beginning Fiddle Division” in which the two youngest contestants in the contest had to come back for a “fiddle-off” so the judges could decide who would get third and fourth place. Also, the “Junior Division” winner placed second in the overall “Open Division” Illinois State Old-Time Fiddle Contest.
Shelby County was well represented with trophies, as Junior Hobson of Stewardson, Illinois took home third place in the “Over 70 Division” category in the Illinois State Old-Time Fiddle Contest. Patty Sorrell of Shelbyville, formerly of Findlay, was also a contestant in this category and put in a fine performance as well.
Also this year, two “Perpetuating Old-Time Music Awards”, for helping the Illinois Old-Time Fiddlers Association with fundraising to help fund the annual state fiddle contest and in helping to keep old time fiddle music continue for future generations, were presented to Jim Carder of Stewardson, and also Doug Hadfield of Charleston, who passed away shortly after last year’s contest. Hadfield’s parents accepted Doug’s award on their son’s behalf.
In between division competitions and before award presentations, bluegrass group, “Firebox”, of Effingham set the stage on fire with their performance of toe-tapping bluegrass music throughout the contest. Lisa Perry was the raffle winner of a fiddle that was given away compliments of three of the contest’s sponsors, Bluegrass Shack from Athens, TEF Custom Guitars of Stewardson, and Rex Foreman of Strasburg. Other local sponsors for the Illinois State Old-Time Fiddle Contest this year were the Effingham Tourism Board, Neoga IGA, Chesnut Family Music of Effingham, among other sponsors, as well as individual supporters, who donated money towards the contest’s expenses.
If other sponsors and individual donators would be interested in participating during next year’s fiddle contest, they would be welcomed by the Illinois Old-Time Fiddlers Association, who will be celebrating a milestone next year of hosting the 50th year of the Illinois State Old-Time Fiddle Contest. Any business or individual, interested in being a sponsor or donor and wants more information about the state fiddle contest, can attend any of the free music shows, which are held each month on the third Sunday at Forest Park in Shelbyville in the Lion’s Club Building from 2 to 5 p.m., except for the month of October, which is the month of the Illinois State Old-Time Fiddle Contest.
The winner of this year’s Illinois State Old-Time Fiddle Contest has the choice of attending the National Old-Time Fiddlers’ Contest & Festival that will be held in Weiser, Idaho to compete for the national fiddler title. Although all contestants did not lay claim to being this year’s fiddle champion in their category at the Illinois State Old-Time Fiddle Contest, they are all still champions for being the heroes who keep old time fiddle music alive!