Governor Bill Lee and wife Maria Visit Smithville for the Jamboree’s 50th Anniversary

July 3, 2021
By: Dwayne Page

Governor Bill Lee and his wife Maria were in Smithville Friday evening to pay a visit to the Smithville Fiddlers Jamboree and to join in the celebration of the festival’s golden anniversary.

It was part of the governor’s three county tour Friday to commemorate Tennessee’s 225 years of statehood. He kicked off the day at Rock Island State Park followed by a stop over in Sparta at the 3rd Annual Freedom Celebration before his visit to Smithville.

During his remarks during the opening ceremony, Governor Lee commended the Fiddlers Jamboree on its 50 year history and also spoke of the state’s 225th birthday observance before presenting an award on behalf of the Jamboree to festival President and Coordinator Sam Stout for his dedication in keeping the Jamboree tradition alive for future generations.

“What a great opportunity it is for us to all come back together again and celebrate 50 years of this very special historic event. That means so much not just to Tennessee but really to the country. Maria and I are very proud to be here. Tennessee is 225 years old this year. President George Washington signed a document 225 years ago that made Tennessee the 16th state in the nation and I am a strong believer that it is the greatest state in the greatest nation in the world. I have the incredible honor to serve as the Governor of this state because of the people of this state. As such I have come to realize that this is the greatest nation in the world but it will only stay that way if we protect and defend the freedoms and the liberties and the rights that are ours and I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to do that. Thankful for the men and women of the military. Thankful for the men and women of law enforcement. Thankful most importantly for the men and women of the community that make Tennessee the remarkable place it is. Our government leaders are not what makes a state great. What makes a state great are the people and the people of DeKalb County, Smithville, and the people all across this state make me very proud as I travel the country and interact with governors all across the country. We are very fortunate to be Tennesseans and I am very fortunate to be on this stage on this night on this weekend when we celebrate the greatest nation in the world and we thank God for his great favor on America and we together, I say to you Happy Fourth of July and may God Bless the great state of Tennessee and the United States of America,” said Governor Lee.

The Governor also presented an award on behalf of the Jamboree to Jack Barton, a former Fiddlers Jamboree President and Coordinator for his years of dedicated service.

Sixth District Congressman John Rose also praised the Fiddlers Jamboree reaching this 50 year milestone and presented Stout a framed copy of his remarks on the floor of the US House of Representatives made part of the Congressional Record which reads as follows:

“Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor the 50th Anniversary of the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree and Crafts Festival, also known also known as the Official Festival of the state of Tennessee, located in Smithville, Tennessee. The Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree and Crafts Festival is dedicated to the furtherance and preservation of old time Appalachian country music, dance, and authentic art and culture”.

“In 1972 Congressman Joe L. Evins, a Smithville native conceived a gathering of a group of area musicians to stage an old time Appalachian country show in Smithville, Tennessee and suggested the same to Berry C. Williams. Congressman Evins and Berry C. Williams, along with JG “Bobo” Driver, Charles Gentry, Ralph Vaughn, Neil Dudney, and Linda Pack formed a committee to organize such an event. On July 1, 1972, 714 musicians representing 16 states entertained an audience of 8,000 people.

Now, 50 years later, this exemplary event has grown to the point that it is now estimated that 40,000 people attended the two day event in 2019, with over 250 contestants. The long and fruitful history of the Jamboree is a culmination of multiple cultural and historical threads that, woven together over time, have situated the festival as a staple of local heritage and is representative of tireless community engagement”.

“Madam Speaker, I want to thank the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree and Crafts Festival organizers, committees, volunteers, and the people of Smithville and DeKalb County, Tennessee for their tireless work to make this event an overwhelming success. Tennesseans take great pride in institutions and events that seek to make the community a better place to live, and I am honored to recognize the Smithville Jamboree as one of those events. Therefore, I would like my colleagues to join me in honoring and commending the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree and Crafts Festival for 50 years of tribute to Appalachian art and culture”.

Meanwhile State Senator Mark Pody and State Representatives Terri Lynn Weaver and Clark Boyd presented a framed copy of a joint resolution adopted by the Tennessee State Senate and House of Representatives paying tribute to the Fiddlers’ Jamboree.

The joint resolution reads as follows:

“WHEREAS, each year, the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree and Crafts Festival draws hundreds of musicians and crafts people and many thousands of spectators from around the world; and WHEREAS, the first Smithville Jamboree opened on July 1, 1972, and the event has been held every year since on the Friday and Saturday nearest to the 4th of July; and

WHEREAS, the first Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree attracted 714 musicians representing sixteen states with an estimated audience of 8,000; today’s audience is estimated at 25,000- 30,000 over the course of the two-day event; and

WHEREAS, the first Jamboree featured thirteen categories of competition with prize money of $1,200; today there are thirty-one categories with more than $12,000 in prize money; and

WHEREAS, in 1972, a broader tribute to Appalachian art and culture was initiated when 100 crafts people from twelve states participated in the first Crafts Festival at the Jamboree; this event has since grown to include more than 250 artisans who sell and display authentic pioneer and contemporary crafts that are subject to the highest standards; and

WHEREAS, a new category, “The National Championship for Country Musician Beginners, Ages 12 and Under,” was added in 1984 to provide an opportunity for young people to determine the champion of their chosen instrument through friendly competition; the trophy for this popular event is now named in honor of one of the Jamboree’s founding fathers, James G. “Bobo” Driver; and

WHEREAS, in the very beginning, the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree was recorded for television by the British Broadcasting Company and many others; WCTE of Cookeville now televises the Jamboree annually, and through the magic of public television, the event is shown all over the country; and
WHEREAS, the popularity of the Jamboree is attested to by its selection as a “Top 20 Tourist Favorite” by the Southern Tourism Society for each of the past sixteen years; also listed as one of the top 100 tourist events in North America, the Jamboree has been rated fourth best in the U.S. for summer vacations by Vacation magazine; and

WHEREAS, the beautiful Appalachian Arts and Crafts Center that overlooks Center Hill Lake is named in honor of the late Congressman Joe L. Evins, in honor of his seminal role in the creation of the Jamboree and his commitment to preserving Appalachian art, music, and culture; and

WHEREAS, the Junior and Senior Fiddle-Off Grand Champion receives a trophy named in honor of another Jamboree founding father, Berry C. Williams; and

WHEREAS, in 1997, the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree and Crafts Festival became “The Official Tennessee and National Jamboree and Crafts Festival”; and

WHEREAS, this Independence Day tradition started in 1972 is still going strong today, as the Festival continues to preserve and pay homage to the music and art of our ancestors and celebrate the simple pleasure of listening to pure, unadulterated live Appalachian music ringing through the streets of downtown Smithville, population 4,305; and

WHEREAS, the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree and Crafts Festival and its board of directors are committed to preserving the heritage of country and bluegrass music and Appalachian arts and crafts, and they are richly deserving of our recognition on this special anniversary; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE OF THE ONE HUNDRED TWELFTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CONCURRING, that we join with the citizens of Smithville and Tennesseans from all walks of life in celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree and Crafts Festival”.

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