Fiddlers take stage Saturday during annual Rotary event

Published 9:10 pm Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bows will be rosined and ready when the Atmore Rotary Club sponsored 31st annual South Alabama Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention gets under way Saturday.

Rotarian Keith Castleberry, one of the organizers for the event, said plans have been finalized and musicians are preparing for the event that will be returning to the Escambia County High School auditorium this year.

“We are moving back to the high school for the Convention this year,” Castleberry said. “We had that opportunity and wanted to make the event as comfortable for the audience and musicians as possible.”

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The Convention will begins this Saturday with registration at 10 a.m., Castleberry said.

“Registration will begin at 10 a.m. with the competition beginning at 2 p.m,” Castleberry said. “We are hopeful this year’s event will be filled with musicians to make the afternoon an enjoyable one for everyone.”

There are seven categories of competition with cash prizes to the top performers in each division, Castleberry said.

“The main category, of course, is the fiddle division,” Castleberry said. “The top fiddler will be rewarded with a $1,000 cash prize. Other awards include $75 for second place and $50 for third.”

Other categories include mandolin, banjo, guitar, Dobro, band and vocal/groups, Castleberry said.

“The band and vocal group awards are a little different than other categories as far as prize money,” Castleberry said. “The top band and the top vocal group will receive a $200 cash prize with second receiving $100 and third getting $50.”

Prizes for individual categories are $100 for first place, $75 for second place and $50 for third, Castleberry said.

Judging may be difficult, but Castleberry said he has judges ready to take on the task.

“We like to have at least three judges for the event,” Castleberry said. “It’s a tough job to be a judge when you have such great musicians playing. We also have a couple of alternate judges in place for additional judging.”

Castleberry said there will be one group to hit the stage that won’t be up for judging.

“We provide some pure entertainment for the event beyond the competition,” Castleberry said. “We have a house band that has been with us for several years now. The Down Home band from Robertsdale will be performing some great bluegrass music during the afternoon.”

Jerry Gehman will serve as Master of Ceremonies for the event, Castleberry said.

For those who come hungry, getting some lunch or dinner will be an easy task, Castleberry said.

“John Swift will be cooking up some of his award-winning barbecue,” Castleberry said. “The barbecue just seems to fit right in at the Convention. There will be plenty to eat and drink throughout the day.”

The event, which typically generates up to $6,000 annually, is held as a fundraiser for the organization.

“We have this big fundraiser every year to help with finances needed to honor academic excellence in our students,” Castleberry said. “The money raised from this event, as well as other events, makes it possible for us to give scholarships to students who achieve honors during their high school years.”

Castleberry said high school students who earn As and Bs throughout the year are honored through the Rotary Academic All-Star program.

“We want to honor the students who achieve academic excellence,” Castleberry said. “We recognize students who have made As and Bs all year with this award. Seniors who have earned the award all four years receive a special scholarship to honor their achievement.”

Tickets for the Fiddlers’ Convention are on sale and are available from any Rotary Club member, Castleberry said. Tickets are $9 each in advance or at the door.

A raffle will also be held on event day with a $100 cash prize to be given away. Raffle tickets for the drawing are $1 and will available at the event throughout the day.

For additional information concerning rules or activities for the Convention, contact Castleberry at 368-2106 or the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce at 368-3305.

Fiddler Winky Hicks competes in the Fiddlers’ contest during the Fiddlers’ Convention in 2009. | File Photo