Participants, in what arguably is the oldest continuous fiddle reunion in the U.S., are getting ready to take bow-in-hand, and to fill the streets in Downtown Athens with music.
So what? They do that every May. This year, they’re doing it again on May 26 and May 27, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Thursday night events is the annual jam session, which begins at 7 p.m., and the competition for the money, starts at 9 a.m., Friday.
But so what?
Well, not every year is the 80th Anniversary of The Athens Old Fiddler’s Reunion.
This thing’s been going on since the Great Depression of the 1930s. You mght say things have almost come full circle with today’s struggling economy. But don’t ask for confirmation of that thought from anyone who lived through the 1930s, and is still here to tell about it.
One thing that generation and this generation do have in common is that Texans are stilll tapping their boots, and snapping their fingers to the “fiddlin’” music being strummed out by the contestants.
From pea-shooters of the 1930s to I-PODS of the 21st Century, much has changed, but one instrument continues to have the same positive grip on the human soul.
Year-after-year-after-year, they come from all over Texas to sit under the giant trees that shade the Henderson County Courthouse on the square in Downtown Athens.
The politicians will be in town, too, getting their photo ops, and gripping registered and unregistered-voter flesh and their offspring.
U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling and Texas State Sen. Bill Nichols will be in town to offer proclamations, congratulating the Athens Old Fiddlers Reunion for its 80 years of continuous entertainment.
"We're just real excited about this year's event,” said organizer Mary Ensign, who is now into her 40th year with the association. “When we get those proclamations, we're gong to hang them in the Henderson County Courthouse,” she said.
Longtime favorites expected to be on-hand to entertain the crowd include last year’s defending Grand Champion, Wes Westmoreland, who will attempt to win another $500 as reward from the grand prize, plus an additional $200 for winning his division. In addition, Little Ray Hayes, Texas Shorty Chancellor and Benny Bennett are expected to be on hand once again.
Female winner Brooke Wallace will also be here to defend her title.
The Fiddler's Contest is broken into five age divisions:18 and under; ages 19-30; ages 31-65; ages 66 and above; and a ladies Division.
Each division pays five places. There will be a playoff between the first-place winner of each of the five divisions.
The winner of this round will be recognized as the Grand Champion.
Ensign said she expects about 20 vendors to be in operation around the courthouse, making sure the crowd has plenty of food, corn, candied apples, popcorn and soft drinks.
Carnival rides for younger guests will once again be in Athens for those wishing to get off their feet and into the air.
The festivities begin at 9 a.m., and continue until early evening. Following the competition, the annual street dance will be held in front of the bandstand.
For more information, call: 903-675-1859, or 888-294-2847.
• 9 a.m. — Invocation;
• 10 a.m. — Welcome Address;
• 10 a.m. — James Weaver & the Cross Country Band;
• 10 a.m. — Fiddlers over 65 compete;
• 11 a.m. — Fiddlers under 65 compete;
• Noon — Western Swing band;
• 1:30 p.m. — Fiddlers under 65 continued;
• 2 p.m. — Fiddlers aged 19-30 compete;
• 3 p.m. — Ladies Special Competition;
• 4 p.m — Fiddlers 18 and under compete;
• 5 p.m. — Playoff for Grand Champion;
• 8 p.m. to Midnight — Street Dance.