LLANO — If the Devil really wanted to find somebody playing a fiddle hot, then he should have skipped that trip to Georgia and stopped by Llano during the annual Llano Fiddle Fest weekend.
“We’re going to see some of the best fiddle players in Texas and even from outside the state,” festival organizer John Cab said. “It’s really hard to explain how good some of these fiddle players are or what Texas fiddle playing style really is. It’s just best to come and experience it.”
That’s some excellent advice.
The Llano Fiddle Fest runs April 4-6 in Llano at several sites. The main event, the Llano Open Fiddle Contest, starts at 10 a.m. April 6 at the LanTex Theater, 113 W. Main St. This is where the fiddlers converge for the competition.
“Last year, it was a full house at one point, which is great for the fiddle players because they find themselves performing for around 440 people,” Cab said. “And, typically, they don’t get to play in front of that many people.”
The Llano Fiddle Fest is the first contest of the year in the Texas Old Time Fiddlers Association calendar. A previous event in March was postponed because of weather, so you can expect the fiddlers are itching to compete.
Another thing that makes the Llano contest so enticing to fiddlers is the payout in the open division (ages 16-64). Cab said the top fiddler walks away with $700, and the first runner-up earns $500. The second runner-up lands $300, and the amounts continue down through the top 15 places.
“Those amounts, I think, will help draw quite a few fiddlers,” he said.
The youth division promises gifts and prizes to the top five places with the top four seniors (ages 65 and up) competing for cash.
But it’s not just about the money and prizes. For the fiddlers, it’s a great way to showcase their abilities and celebrate the Texas fiddle style. These events help keep the old-time Texas fiddling alive and well as they attract new people to the fold.
While the Texas fiddle competition takes the center stage, other styles — fiddle and violin — also find a home during the Llano Fiddle Fest.
Even the air fiddling.
On April 4 at 6 p.m., the Air Fiddle & Anything Goes — Tricks & Licks Contests take the stage at the Badu Wine Pub, 601 Bessemer Ave.
While air fiddle is rather self-explanatory, Cab said the Anything Goes contest is a new addition this year to allow people to perform other styles of violin and fiddle playing.
Other events during the weekend include the fiddle history and instrument art exhibit at the Llano County Museum, 310 Bessemer Ave. The display is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. April 4; all day April 5; and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. April 6.
On April 5, The Lost & Nameless Orchestra will perform at 7 p.m. at the LanTex Theater. Admission is free, but any donations from the concert will go to the Llano, Valley Spring and Castell volunteer fire departments. There will be a Sunday service at the Llano County Museum park on April 6 at 9 a.m. featuring a cowboy breakfast and more fiddle music. The event wraps up the same day with Howard Rains giving a history and performance of early Texas fiddle tunes at 10:30 a.m. at the museum park.
“The level of competition is extremely good at the festival,” Cab said. “But you really have to come experience it to really appreciate the fiddlers and this music.”
Admission to all of the events is free, but donations are accepted and will go to local charities. Go to www.llanofiddlefest.com for more information.