Old Time Fiddler's Convention, Christmas Trees for the White House, and Toxic Carpets

The Mountain City Fiddlers gather for a reunion in Tennessee, the logistics of choosing the annual White House Christmas Tree, and the dangers of toxic carpets.

| August/September 1993

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    The Mountain City fiddlers first gathered 68 years ago.

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Old Time Fiddlers' Convention  

More than 60 years ago the floor of a Tennessee high school auditorium almost collapsed under the weight of a large, foot stomping crowd. The year was 1925 and the stompers had come to see the first fiddlers' convention of Mountain City, Tennessee. According to Joe Wilson, Head of the Traditional Arts Division of the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C., the crowd spilled right out of the room that day and organizers had to open another auditorium for the overflow.

Needless to say, the convention became an annual event. Unfortunately, it only lasted five years before becoming a victim of the Depression. Since its revival in 1977, however, the convention has remained a true crowd pleaser.

Eva Moore will attest to that. At 73, she's the only living competitor of that first convention and she still loves to watch the bands compete today. Ask her favorite memory and she'll tell you about the convention's first dance competition: "I was only five years old and I slept through most of the contests, but Mom woke me when they announced the dance category and headed me towards the stage. I stood there dazed, but when the band started playing, I danced around. Before I knew it, people from the crowd threw their change at me."

By the song's end, Eva had gathered $25 worth of change, which she saved in a jar and had her Dad put towards buying a pony for her. "I lived three miles from school and I rode that pony every day." She also took home first prize that year: "A yellow scarf that I kept throughout my teen years:'

This year the Mountain City Rotary Club will sponsor the Old Time Fiddlers' Convention on Saturday, August 28. Head for the Old Mill Music Park in Laurel Bloomery Tennessee (located on Highway 91 between Mountain City and Damascus, Virginia), and don't forget your blankets and chairs. If you're interested in putting your musical talents to test, you can register for competition on Saturday until 7 p.m.

Just don't bring your electric guitars; only traditional string instruments are appreciated on these grounds, with the exception of the harmonica. Judged categories include: fiddle (also bass fiddle and twin fiddles), banjo, guitar, man dolin, dulcimer, autoharp, folk song, and band. Individual musicians are permitted two backup players and time to perform one song (no runoff competition). Bands, made up of at least three instruments, also get to play one song, though the top three bands get to perform two more. As for fortune (to go with your fame), $1,100 worth of prizes will be awarded. Most first-place winners will take home $25 and the grand-prize fiddler may walk away $150 richer. For more information, check out www.fiddlersconvention.org.

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