The Athens Review
It wasn’t long ago that we had a conversation with Mary Ensign about the big change that was coming to the Athens Old Fiddlers Contest & Reunion.
It was early spring and Ensign — who organizes the contest each year — was doing a little bit of hand-wringing over the decision to move the 81-year-old event from a Thursday-Friday format to Friday and Saturday.
By shifting the event by one day, Ensign was hoping to attract more spectators and competitors — including those who can’t get away from work during the weekday and those who are school-aged. Even so, she knew making any change to the county’s most cherished and long-standing event was risky.
What if the regular attendees get confused and show up on the wrong day? What if the old-timers revolt and stay home in protest of any change to their beloved mainstay?
After seeing the crowds this past weekend on the Henderson County Courthouse square, it’s clear that didn’t happen. This was an unqualified success.
There’s no official count because it’s so easy for spectators to come and go, but it wasn’t hard to see the solid attendance. One spectator commented to us that he had never seen the blocked-off portion of Prairieville Street behind the bandstand so packed with lawn chairs. Ensign, herself, told us earlier this week the jam session crowd was the biggest she has seen in a long time.
If all that is a little too much conjecture for you, consider this — Ensign says the number of 18 and under contestants doubled from last year.
“We had some very happy parents,” she said.
We don’t have many fiddle players in the building (at last count, zero), but we love the Old Fiddlers Contest & Reunion. We want our kids to someday sit on the west lawn with their kids and enjoy the same kind of small-town bliss offered by this unique event. That means Ensign’s continued efforts to keep younger fiddlers involved isn’t just a good idea — it’s necessary.
Risk-takers are often fond of saying they’ll take the blame if an endeavor doesn’t work, yet they shy away from taking credit when something succeeds out of fear of looking like a braggard.
So indulge us as we do a little bragging and shoulder-patting:
Good job, Mary.
— Athens Daily Review