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The 90th Annual Old Fiddlers Reunion is set for Friday and Saturday, May 28 and 29. With restrictions lifted by Gov. Greg Abbott and keeping guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control, the Athens Old Fiddlers Reunion Planning Committee is excited to announce the Fiddlers Reunion is back to its original design.

The Fiddlers competition for all ages, carnival, and street dance will be happening. Continuing this tradition has been important to our community especially to the leading lady, Mary Ensign. She has been planning the Fiddlers Reunion for 50 years and will be retiring after this year.

“I am so happy that we are going to be able to have the Athens Old Fiddlers Reunion this year in the way we always have,” Ensign said. “It being our 90th year, and my 50th and last year to be involved with the Fiddlers just makes it that much more special that we are going to be able to be back the way we were.”

Ensign is handing off her fiddle to the Athens Old Fiddler Reunion committee which consists of a non-profit organization, Fiddles on Wheels founders Sherry McKenzie and Cindy Roberts, Traci Wilkes, founder of East Texas Independent Business Alliance and owner of Reigning Jewels, and Katie Birk, City of Athens Tourism and Cultural Resources Coordinator.

“Our nonprofit has been helping with the Athens Old Fiddlers Reunion the past few years and we quickly realized that it would take a team of people to fill Mary Ensign's shoes,” Fiddles on Wheels stated.

“After 50 years of volunteering and working with local sponsors to keep the annual event going, she deserves a front row seat to be able to just sit back and watch the action. We have found that working together with the City of Athens, Katie Birk, Traci Wilkes and local sponsors, Old Fiddlers is a perfect partner for our nonprofit to help ensure the tradition of a free, fun, festive, fiddle-flavored weekend on the courthouse square.”

Friday night from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. will be a street dance with Athens native, a master of Honky-Tonk, Jake Penrod and His Million Dollar Cowboys.

Saturday’s fiddle contest will run from 10 a.m. to approximately 6 p.m. and will be followed by the acoustic guitar picking contest. After the contest Saturday, there will be another street dance with Jody Nix & The Texas Cowboys from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m.

The fiddle contest will be broken down into six divisions with more than $5,000 in prize money at stake, so set up your chairs on the courthouse lawn and get ready for some great music. There will be wonderful food vendors around the square.

The carnival will also be in town Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in the city parking lot behind The Texan. The carnival will be open 5 to 11 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 11am to midnight on Saturday. Ride tickets are $1 each or purchase a bracelet for unlimited rides costing $25. Since the carnival will be in the location of the weekly Athens Farmers Market, it will join the festivities on West Tyler Street beside the Henderson County Annex from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

All concerts will be outdoors this year and the event will have a Fiddlers Market inside The Texan from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

If you would like to be a vendor, contact Katie Birk at 903-675-8039 or email texaninfo@athenstx.gov. The music is free with seating on a first come basis. Call 903-675-8039 for more information.

The entire community is getting involved for this year’s Reunion. 211 Gallery, located just a block north from the competition, will be hosting a Canvas & Cork painting session from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday. Local artist, Christi Barrett, will teach a fiddle inspired painting while enjoying a beverage of your choice. Registration will be required so stay tuned for more details.

The East Texas Arboretum will be displaying one hundred or more wooden fiddles painted by the community and supporters of the Arboretum. They will be on display the entire week of Fiddlers Reunion. Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center will be offering free admission to anyone who brings their fiddles and just wants to jam out, so you may get to hear some fiddlin’ while fishin’.

Want to make a weekend out of it? Super 8 is offering a special “Fiddlers Rate” so make sure to call their office at 903-675-7511 to book your room.

Event organizers would like to thank this year sponsors for their generous support: Fiddles on Wheels, Republic Services, City of Athens, Visit Athens, Reigning Jewels, The Texan, Morton Small Animal Clinic, Trinity Valley Community College, East Texas Independent Business Alliance, First State Bank, The Retreat Massage & Day Spa, KCKL, KLVQ, Bacon Auto, Athens Screen Printing, and Hope Springs Water.

If you are interested in being added to this list, contact Traci Wilkes at 903-681-5185 or email tracimwilkes@gmail.com.

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