Peace Garden hosts international fiddling contest

INTERNATIONAL PEACE GARDEN—An appreciation for old-time, toe-tapping music brought Americans and Canadians together for an international competition here this weekend.

The 36th annual International Old-Time Fiddlers Contest drew about 30 contestants, ranging in age from elementary school to senior citizens.

Tim Wollenzien, director of the International Music Camp, said the camp has hosted the event for so many years because the art of fiddling has long been part of the culture of this part of the world.

“I think that there are a lot of people who enjoy this kind of music, whether it’s participating in making it or listening to it,” he said. “It’s traditional, and yet it takes a lot of skill. The nice thing is you can be successful at a young age and can continue to enjoy it and do well with it in old age.”

Contestant Mike Page, 71, of Belcourt, N.D., said he’s been fascinated with fiddle music since he was 4 years old.

He taught himself to play and has picked up different techniques throughout the years. He’s competed in the contest at the Peace Garden since it began.

“You learn new things every time you get here and meet different people,” Page said. “It’s enjoyable, you know. That’s what I come for.”

John Quibell of Fargo brought his 6-year-old son Tristan to compete in the small fry division.

“It’s fun. I like to learn stuff, and that makes it fun,” Tristan said of why he likes to play fiddle.

The contest began Saturday morning and will go into the evening. Judges score contestants based on technical ability, rhythm, tone quality and intonation. All songs need to be of “danceable quality.”

To keep the contest objective, judges are tucked away in another room and only allowed to hear the music. They do not know who played each song.

Contestants play a hoedown, a waltz and a selection of his or her choice.

Judge Kay Werre of Fullerton, N.D., has been a serious fiddler for 32 years and enjoys being part of the contest.

“It’s a good, clean form of entertainment,” she said. “It’s a historical type of music that would just die out if people didn’t keep the contests going to keep others interested in playing the music.”

To help keep that interest alive, the weekend included workshops to provide instruction in beginning fiddle, Canadian old-time fiddle and bluegrass fiddle.

Fiddle instructor Ann Schluter of Moorhead said young students who play Suzuki violin are learning fiddling to try something different and enjoy a new challenge.

“It’s fun to play so many different styles. You can learn about different countries through the styles of their music,” she said. “There’s just a real good energy of playing fiddle for dance … that’s mostly what the fiddle style was for, for people dancing. So, it’s just really a fun thing to do and gets a lot of people toe tapping.”

The weekend of events provides fiddle fans with a place to share their love for the music, Wollenzien said.

“It’s great to see the energy and excitement that the teenagers and young children are bringing to fiddling and the fiddling music,” he said. “It’s promising that the art will continue and that people will want to keep playing and making music together.”

Find the video here:

International Old-Time Fiddlers Contest at the Peace Garden

Learning the secrets of fiddling