The Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College welcomes musicians and spectators from across the region to the college campus for the West Virginia Open Fiddle, Old-Time Banjo and Bluegrass Banjo Contest on Saturday, October 1st.
This year the contest will once again be part of Mountain State Forest Festival and it will held at the Davis & Elkins College Amphitheater on the front of campus. The event, “Celebrating Appalachia – Banjos, Burgers and Beer Festival” will include the West Virginia Open Fiddle and Banjo Contest, a Burger cook-off and a beer and wine festival.
For spectators interested in the beer, wine and burger portion of the event there is an admittance fee of $30 which includes a 16 oz stainless steel Forest Festival tumbler and a sheet of tickets in order to sample food and drinks from vendors. Additional tickets will be available for $20 a sheet. Those interested in just attending the WV Fiddle and Banjo Contest as a contestant or spectators do not have to pay this fee.
Registration for the contest begins at noon on Saturday, October 1st and cash prizes will be awarded in Bluegrass Banjo, Old-Time Banjo and Fiddle. The contest will start at 2 p.m. and run until all contestants have competed. There is no registration fee to compete.
The contest has its roots in the Mountain State Forest Festival dating back to the early 1930s. It was revived in 2007 when the Augusta Heritage Center teamed up with the Randolph County Fair Association. Last year it was held on Davis & Elkins College Campus and this year the contest’s history comes full circle as the Mountain State Forest Festival and Augusta Heritage Center collaborate to organize this event.
As an “open” contest, participants from any state or region are welcome to enter. Three prizes will be awarded in fiddle, old-time banjo and bluegrass banjo, as well as a best senior musician prize for age 60 and older, and a best youth musician prize for age 15 and younger. Awards are $400 for first place, $200 for second place and $100 for third place in fiddle and banjo.
“This year we are very excited to be able to bring back the bluegrass banjo contest and we hope it will attract a participants locally and regionally” stated Augusta Heritage Center Events Coordinator, Becky Hill.
Sponsors for this year’s event are Smakula Fretted Instruments, Valley Supply, and McNeer, Highland, McMunn & Varner LLC and several anonymous donors. “These sponsors are working together to keep the tradition going and we are very grateful for their support,” stated Hill.
Organizers say the contest draws some of the most talented traditional musicians in West Virginia and that it, “celebrates the music of this region and promotes pride within the local community for our shared cultural heritage” stated Hill.
“Celebrating Appalachia – Banjos, Burgers and Beer” will wrap the day up with a performance from, “The High Ridge Ramblers” with Mark Payne on banjo, Andrew Dunlap on guitar and Dave Bing on fiddle. “This group has won numerous awards throughout the Appalachian region, are known to be the three of the region’s finest old-time musicians and they just so happen to be our judges! The contest will also have a fantastic emcee, Pete Kosky, who will share his music throughout the day. We are very lucky they are all joining us this year!” stated Hill.
In case of inclement weather “Celebrating Appalachia – Banjos, Burgers & Beer” will be moved to the Elkins Recreation and Event Center (the former Elkins National Guard Armory.)
Next month, Augusta Heritage Center will offer day-long instrument classes during October Old-Time Week, October 16 -21st. This year October Old-Time Week will focus on purely West Virginia old-time music. Sign-up to study old-time banjo, fiddle and guitar with teachers like Bobby Taylor, Kim Johnson, Dave Bing and many others. Augusta will also be celebrating their annual Fiddlers’ Reunion Weekend, October 21st – 23rd. The Fiddlers’ Reunion will kick off on Friday, October 21st with a Halloween Square Dance, on Saturday, October 22nd The Fiddlers’ Reunion will be held all day in the Myles Center for the Arts, and Sunday, October 23rd everything will wrap up with a gospel sing.
The Augusta Heritage Center is also home to significant collections of field recordings, oral histories, photographs, instruments and Appalachian art. To learn more visit www.augustaheritagecenter.org or call the Augusta Heritage Center office at 304-637-1209.
A D&E center of excellence for more than 40 years, the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College offers several week-long programs featuring instruction in many traditions of music, dance, craft and folklore. Concerts, dances, a summer festival and other heritage arts events are part of the Augusta experience.
Programs offered by the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College are presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.