State fiddle champions crowned at Dillon contest

J.P. Plutt
Wednesday, September 1, 2021
Fiddlin’ about

Kelly Buckley of Missoula is shown on stage during a Saturday round. Buckley won the state title in the adult division. J.P. Plutt photo


Cassidy Smith of Bozeman gets ready for a round in the junior picking division at last weekend’s Montana State Fiddle Contest in Dillon. J.P. Plutt photo

The Montana State Fiddle Contest was held in Dillon Friday and Saturday at the Frontier Events Center. Over 80 fiddlers ventured to southwest Montana from all across Montana as well as Idaho and Washington. Champions were crowned Saturday evening.

“The state contest has traditionally been held between July and September,” said Louise Steinway, the treasurer of the Montana State Old Timer Fiddlers Association, the sponsoring group of the contest. “The first official Montana State Fiddle Contest was held in 1964 at Missoula. It was also a national contest and Byron Burlein, who recently passed away, won that contest. So it has been a long tradition to have a state fiddle contest in Montana, over 50 years.”

For a number of years the state contest has recently enjoyed a home at Polson, then moved to Red Lodge and two years ago it was held in Lincoln.

“So we were looking for a new venue and it was suggested to have it in Dillon because they had to cancel their contest in May,” explained Steinway. “They had this venue that we could use and it has been a great venue and it has the size to allow everybody to socially distance.”

The other advantage to having it in Dillon was the co-host role readily accepted by Sandy and Jeannie James, the founders of the Dillon Junior Fiddlers.

“Sandy James has been teaching for over 40 years so he has been teaching the Dillon Junior Fiddlers a long time,” added Steinway.

The divisions are divided by age, from peewee, under 9, to senior, over 60. Steinway says the championship division is where the elite players line up.

“The championship division is the people who have won their age division many times and are at a higher playing level,” explained Steinway. “Katrina Nicolayeff from Meridian, Idaho is the national fiddle champion, so we have some pretty amazing talent here.”

Like Nicolayeff, many top players from around the Pacific Northwest ventured to Dillon.

“The Northwest Regional Fiddle Contest was supposed to happen in September, but that was just canceled, so I think that is why we have more people here. We haven’t had a fiddle contest in over a year.”

Judging the contest were Bobbi Pierce of Nampa, Idaho and Mabel Vogt of Potlatch, Idaho.

“They are both excellent fiddle teachers and they have both been playing for a long time and they are nationally certified judges,” clarified Steinway.

From the Dillon area, Ernie Gilbert of Sheridan won the Senior Picking Division, John Bacon of Dillon placed fifth in the Senior Division, and Rhett Baldwin of Dillon finished third in the Junior Picking Division.

The oldest entrant in the contest was Joe Van Mullen, 71, and the youngest was Clark Huguenin, 5.

Dillon’s entrants were Tessa Johnson, Jr. Jr.; Katie Johnson, Junior, Dance Fiddling; Eli Johnson, Junior; Sandy James, Senior, Dance Fiddling,

Accompaniment; Jeannie James, Accompaniment; Maggie Magee, Adult, Dance Fiddling; Braelynn Baldwin, Jr. Jr.; Rhett Baldwin, Jr. Picking; John Bacon, Senior, Dance Fiddling.

Montana State Fiddle Contest at Dillon’s Frontier Events Center, Aug. 28-29

PeeWee Division (under 9 years old): 1. Chloe Nicolayeff, Meridian, ID. 2. Abby Buckley, Missoula, MT. 3. Maggie Buckley, Missoula, MT. 4. McKinzi Egbert, Rigby, ID. 5. Jayne Huguenin, Post Falls, ID.

Jr. Jr. Division (9 - 12 years): 1. Sorella High, Blackfoot, ID. 2. Helen Huguenin, Post Falls, ID. 3. Oaklee Turpin, Blackfoot, ID. 4. Savannah Stafford, Kalispell, MT. 5. Sheridan Lombardo.

Junior Division (13 - 17 years): 1. Lincoln High, Blackfoot, ID. 2. Libby Rogers, Boise, ID. 3. Leah Huguenin, Post Falls, ID. 4. Kaitlyn Nejely. 5. Leo High, Blackfoot, ID.

Adult Division (18 - 59 years): 1. Kelly Buckley, Missoula, MT. 2. Cadhla Norris, Conrad, MT. 3. Steve Stafford, Kalispell, MT. 4. Brooklyn Wise, Rigby, ID. 5. Infinity Thomson, Denton, MT.

Senior Division (over 60 years old): 1. Sheila Wright, ID. 2. Janet Shelby, Otis Orchards, WA. 3. Fred Buckley, Lolo, MT. 4. Mary Cooper. 5. John Bacon, Dillon, MT.

Novice Division (over 18, playing less than 2 years): 1. Jess Moore, McAllister, MT. 2. Joe Van Mullen, Bozeman, MT. 3. Linda Theobald. 4. Lisa Cronk, Canyon Creek, MT.

Championship Division: 1. Katrina Nicolayeff, Meridian, ID. 2. Taylor Buckley, Missoula, MT. 3. Isaac Callender, Sand Coulee, MT. 4. JayDean Ludiker, Spokane, WA. 5. Emilie Miller, WA.

Senior Picking Division (over 18 years old): 1. Ernie Gilbert, Sheridan, MT. 2. Isaac Callender, Sand Coulee, MT. 3. Taylor Buckley, Missoula, MT. 4. Fred Buckley, Lolo, MT. 5. Matthew Hickey, Bozeman, MT.

Junior Picking Division (under 18 years old): 1. Isaac Stafford, Kalispell, MT. 2. Cassidy Smith, Bozeman, MT. 3. Rhett Baldwin, Dillon, MT.

Accompanist: 1. Taylor Buckley, Missoula, MT. 2. Isaac Callender, Sand Coulee, MT. 3. Louise Steinway, Sand Coulee, MT. 4. Fred Buckley, Lolo, MT. 5. Jeanne Buckley, Lolo, MT.