The fiddlers started coming to Athens 76 years ago to make music and decide who was best with the bow. Thursday and Friday, the rags, breakdowns and waltzes will fill the air much as they did in 1932.

After the street dance and jam session Thursday night, the Texas Fiddlers Association’s Old Fiddlers Contest and Reunion kicks off Friday morning. Contestants of all ages will be trying to secede the flashy 2006 champion Monte Gaylord. The grand champion will take home $200 for his division and another $500 for topping the other divisional winners in the playoff Friday at 5 p.m.

There will be a street dance Thursday and Friday evenings beginning at 8 p.m.

“The fiddlers will start arriving at about 2 p.m. Thursday on the west side of the Henderson County Courthouse lawn.

“We’ve got a great group of western swing bands. Anyone who wants to dance can come on down,” General Manager Bud Hall said. Hall will also serve as Master of Ceremonies for the event.

Fiddle player Clyde Brewer of Houston will bring his band — complete with steel guitar, bass and a piano. “They’re a great bunch, “Hall said.

Hall expects anywhere from 70 to 100 to play for the prizes this year.

“That’s a lot of fiddling,” he said.

The fiddle competition was once dominated by men but in the 90s the women broke through. Tonya Hopkins of Porter took the crown in 1991 and was followed up by other women in the decade. The winner of the ladies special event gets a $200 first prize and a chance to fiddle for the overall championship.

There have always been young fiddlers trying to follow in the footsteps of the former champions. In this decade, the winners in the under 18 competition have been hard to stop. Brook Wallace of Alvarado took the crown in 2003 at age 14 and came back a year later to be a rare repeat champion.

“There will be lots of great young fiddlers in the competition this year,” Hall said.

For the fans there will be food and refreshment booths around the courthouse and a carnival for the kids at the muncipal parking lot.

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e-mail rflowers@athensreview.com

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