Fiddle Championship continuing in Shelburne

April 23, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Marni Walsh

The future of the Canadian Open Fiddle Championship was in jeopardy recently as the Shelburne Rotary Club wrestled with the difficult, but perhaps inevitable question of whether to move away from the 67-year tradition as part of their Heritage Music Festival (HMF.)

The Rotary’s main objective has always been to raise money for charities, organizations and causes within the community, and when an event no longer raises the much needed funds it can mean hard choices must be made.

A recent decline in the number of contestants, smaller audiences and a lack of volunteers to organize the big event were among the reasons for the dilemma. “When some of the Championship participants and winners learned of the possibility of cancellation, they requested a meeting with Rotary,” said Co-Chair Bobbi Ferguson.

“On March 29th fiddler Scott Woods, who had been consulting with our committee previously, Linsey Beckett, Tyler Beckett and Kendra Norris attended our meeting and told us how important the contest was to them and many other musicians who make their living by fiddling. They got their start at the Canadian Open Fiddle Championship, calling it world-renowned, and the contest that all others are modeled after. They said it was prestigious to have won at Shelburne and important for a fiddler’s resumé,” Bobbi Ferguson told the Free Press.

“Both Linsey Beckett and Scott Woods make their living entirely from their art and the contest played an integral part in their success,” Ms. Ferguson added. “They both grew up playing the fiddle circuit and say Shelburne was the one to win. They want future generations to experience the thrill of the Shelburne Championship as they did – like their fathers and grandfathers before them.”

“The contest has always an important part of our heritage and we want it to grow,” she said. “Sometimes we lose sight of what is important because of the amount of effort, and we focus on the few negatives rather the many positives. The Fiddle Contest put Shelburne on the map and it doesn’t matter where you go in the world, people recognize Shelburne as the home of the Fiddle Contest. I, for one, do not want to lose this part of our rich heritage and I am hoping that this year we will see familiar faces and welcome many new ones.”

The Rotary club will now be working with past fiddle contestants and winners to promote the Fiddle Championship to new audiences and contestants to revitalize this part of the Heritage Music Festival. Scott Woods, Kendra Woods, Linsey Beckett and Tyler Beckett have all committed to play an active role going forward with promotion, as well as physical participation at the HMF.      

“Whether fiddle music is your first choice of entertainment or not, I can tell you that when they started to play it sent shivers up my spine and put a smile on my face,” said Bobbi Ferguson.

This year’s Championship will take place all day Saturday, August 11, with playdowns starting at 10 a.m. and finishing up with the Finals and entertainment in the evening.

Everyone is invited to come out to the Heritage Music Festival August 8th to 12th to enjoy Country, Folk and Rock, and – as is the traditional in Shelburne – the sweet sound of the fiddle at the 68th Canadian Open Old Time Fiddle Championship.

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