Organizers Gearing up for 39th Annual Fiddler's Jamboree and Crafts Festival

June 10, 2010
by: 
Dwayne Page
Jack Barton

The 39th annual Smithville Fiddler's Jamboree and Crafts Festival is set for Friday and Saturday, July 2nd & 3rd.

Jack Barton, Fiddler's Jamboree Coordinator, says this year's festival promises to be entertaining and efforts are being made to book more crafters. "Things are shaping up well. We're probably a little bit behind schedule on crafters. We've added a street that has been closed for the last three years. We're very close to having the same number of crafters we had last year and I think most people were pleased with the crafts we had here and how full the streets were but by adding Third Street it's given us another thirty to forty booths in play that we need to fill, but we're getting in quite a few each day and we hope to have every street full that we originally had. There's roughly about 227 spots but all the numbers are not consecutive the way we've had the booths over the years. Some booth (spots) have been "x"ed out for emergency exits and things like that. We're continually challenged because fewer and fewer people do the traditional Appalachian crafts but we still strive to make sure this is a handmade event, so people do need to create their own items and not resell an item."

As for the on-stage competitive events, Barton says there won't be much change from last year. "We restructured the events somewhat last year and changed the rules on some of the square dancing events and we added youth square dancing for Friday. Last year we had three youth groups in that event. This year I think there will be a lot more youth groups in that on Friday."

Barton says the Fiddler's Jamboree is facing some challenges financially because of the economy and the loss of some corporate sponsors, but a grant has been awarded to help market the festival to a wider audience. "We were very fortunate to have been awarded a Tennessee Arts Commission grant. The TAC by the General Assembly has it's own license plate, the funds from which support the arts. But also any vanity plate that you have in the state, a certain percentage of that goes to the Tennessee Arts Commission, and they award grants throughout the state for good things that improve the arts and the culture of Tennessee. We got a $2,100 matching grant and we matched $2,100 with it and we've stretched it as far as we can. We've gotten rack cards. If anyone has ever visited a rest stop or a welcome center in the state you can see panels of these rack cards advertising anything from Cumberland Caverns to Dollywood, and those sorts of things. The Fiddler's Jamboree is now represented and that was funded, in part, thanks to the Tennessee Arts Commission."

See Video of the 2009 Grand Champion Fiddler Gailanne Amundsen of Florida

"The other project we're doing that is going to help us in fundraising and continued support of the Jamboree is a three and a half to four minute promotional video that can sum up what the Jamboree is, what it means to people, and what our needs are in regard to support because in these economic times the biggest thing that is hurting the Jamboree is that it's becoming harder and harder to get that bigger corporate support that we've enjoyed in the past. A lot of events have either had to unfortunately go under or some have become charging admission. Our sister event, Uncle Dave Macon Days in Murfreesboro, for the first time in their history, is starting to charge admission and that is something the Jamboree never wants to have to do. We're a family friendly event and a free event. But I want to be honest with the community and the people who love the Jamboree, the last couple of years the Jamboree, while it is a non-profit and we don't want to make money, we've actually lost some money. It roughly takes us, in a given year, around $65,000 to $70,000 to put on a Jamboree, which includes about $13,500 in prize money that we give out back to the contestants. As a non-profit there are some years that the Jamboree, prior to my being involved, has probably enjoyed some surpluses. But if it weren't for those surpluses we would have had a hard time last year and this year putting on a Jamboree."

"It's been unique economic times. A lot of people are out of work. A lot of corporations have downsized so it's been really challenging. We've been able to rely on some of our reserves to put on the Jamboree. We want to try and reach out with all sorts of modern media. Last year we introduced a face book page and we were actually tweeting during the event. What we're trying to do this year is to figure out ways that people can support us with gifts in kind and rather than an outright exchange of money, maybe we can help each other out. We've got this insulation of these corporate offices. Whether it's Lowes or Cracker Barrel, Wal-mart, or any of these bigger corporations, many of them are not afforded any lattitude at the local level to give. It all has to be a decision made at a higher level. These are people who have never heard of the Jamboree. If you can sum up in three and a half or four minutes (in a promotional video) what it means to come to a Jamboree and what it means to the youth that continues this music and what we are continuing on tradition wise in Appalachian music, it's going to help sell us."

Preliminaries will be held in the following categories on Friday, July 2nd starting at 9:00 a.m.

Old Time Appalachian Folksinging (solos and duets); Flat Top Guitar; Junior Clogging (ages 13-39); Junior Buck Dancing (ages 13-39); Dobro Guitar; Mountain Dulcimer; Hammer Dulcimer; Novelty Event; Youth Square Dancing, Old Time Fiddle Band; Autoharp; Gospel Singing (solos); Country Harmonica; Old Time Banjo; Gospel Singing (duets, trios, and quartets); and Mandolin.

The top three acts in each category will be called back for the finals on Friday night and a first, second, and third place will be awarded.

On Saturday, July 3rd starting at 9:00 a.m., preliminaries will be held in the following categories:

Junior Fiddlers (ages 13-39); Junior Old Time Appalachian Flatfoot dance (ages up to 39); Senior Old Time Appalachian Flatfoot dance ( ages 40 and over); Senior Buckdancing (ages 40 and over); Senior Clogging (ages 40 and over); Bluegrass Banjo; Bluegrass Band; Bluegrass Fiddle, Senior Fiddlers (ages 40 and over); and Square Dancing. The winner of the Bluegrass Fiddle will receive the Neil Dudney Award, named for the former longtime President and Coordinator of the Fiddlers Jamboree.

Preliminaries will be held in each event and then the top three finalists will be called back Saturday night to compete for first, second, and third place.

The winners of the Junior and Senior Fiddling competition will square off for the Grand Champion Award, the Berry C. Williams Memorial Trophy at the conclusion of the festival.

Meanwhile, the National Championship for Country Musician Beginners will be held Saturday afternoon during the Jamboree featuring competitions for children, up to age twelve, in the categories of Buck Dancing, Clogging, Dobro Guitar, Mandolin, Five String Banjo, Flat Top Guitar, and Fiddle.

Preliminaries will be held in each event and then the top three finalists will be brought back to compete for first, second, and third place.

One child will receive the Best Overall Instrumental Entertainer and the top fiddler will get the James G. "Bobo" Driver Memorial Trophy.

In addition to the on-stage musical entertainment, the Fiddlers Jamboree will feature hundreds of crafts, plenty of delicious food; and lots of shade tree picking around the public square.

WJLE will broadcast most of the on-stage entertainment LIVE.

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