Fiddle Around At Weiser Festival

SUNDAY, JUNE 18, 1995

Starting Monday, the little town of Weiser, Idaho, will grow more than four times its normal size.

Why the flood? Fiddlers. The town of 4,800 will swell to about 20,000 as toe-tappin’ fans and musicians from all over the country meet for the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest, which runs through Saturday.

“It’s basically the biggest contest that I’m aware of in the country,” says Spokane’s Tony Ludiker, 33, the contest’s five-time grand national champion.

“It’s wall-to-wall music. It’s pretty wild. There are a lot of people that don’t even go in to see the contest. They just hang around outside and play.”

This contest marks Ludiker’s 20th year at Weiser.

“Death is the only thing that might keep me away,” he says, laughing.

Ludiker’s not alone. Candy Hadeler works for the Weiser Chamber of Commerce. She says her work picks up around this time of year, as people from all over the United States and Canada call to receive entry forms. Usually, 300 to 350 fiddlers enter.

“We even sent one to New Zealand this year,” Hadeler says.

The Weiser contest has been going since 1953, and it became the national championship 10 years later. Since its inception, it has grown from fiddle show-down to town festival. The music has become a springboard for all sorts of other happenings.

There’s a parade. Vendors’ booths in the town park. Craft and quilt shows, hay rides, melodrama productions, magic shows, pony rides and a petting zoo. Prizes for youngsters, old-time Western movies, Native American dancing and a watermelon-eating contest. There’s even a “biker rodeo,” where a fleet of leather-clad Harley riders show off their wheels. Oh, and don’t forget the jet-boat rides and - Well, you get the idea.

If you want to be part of the fun, don’t count on getting a hotel room. Hadeler says Weiser is booked solid. There are rooms 17 miles away, however, in nearby Ontario.

But hotels aren’t really part of the contest spirit anyway. Hadeler says most people just camp out.

The event starts Monday at 6:30 p.m. with entertainment and a jam session. Competition begins at 7 p.m. nightly.

General admission is $5 for adults, $2.50 for children and $10 per family on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday competitions are $4 for adult seats, $2 for children’s seats.

Friday’s Grand Champion Competition and senior categories are $6 for adult seats, $3 for children’s seats. Saturday’s championship finals are $8 for all seats.

For reserved seat prices or any other information, call the Weiser Chamber of Commerce at (800)437-1280.


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