Banjo contests open Weiser’s music rendezvous

Among hundreds of music festivals, camps, and contests that happen throughout the country every year, Weiser’s annual National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest and Festival has become a bedrock, and one that now extends into nearly two weeks each June.
 Campsites in Stickerville on the west side of the historic Intermountain Institute’s Hooker and Slocum halls, the camp trailer and RV sites on the east side of the campus, along with Fiddletown across Paddock Avenue began filling by last Wednesday when the sounds of jamming started.
 Friday evening opened Banjo Contest weekend with an open mic night, featuring a full gamut of talent and a deep variety of country music from over decades. Some who performed Friday will be found on Memorial Park’s entertainment stage throughout the week, as well.
Intermediate banjo
 While waiting for the judges to tabulate scores on Saturday, six intermediate contestants entertained the audience with an impromptu on-stage jam, playing as a group, and taking individual turns at the mic.
 When the tallies were complete, 17-year-old Nate Hendricks of Clatskanie, Ore. won the division, with Bart Carpenter of New Meadows, Idaho in second, and Mark Olson of Seattle, Wash. third.
 About to begin his final year of high school, Hendricks said he moved over to online schooling about four years ago, so he didn’t feel any negative educational impacts because of COVID. At the same time, he discovered his interest in banjo and music, and said he is thinking it will play a major role in his future.
 “I’ve played about three years now,” he said. “I play pretty much by ear.”
 He said he went to the American Banjo Camp in Puget Sound early on, and Taborgrass in Portland. He claims Mike Stahlman as a favorite mentor and inspiration.
Advanced banjo
 Another six players competed for the coveted titles and a chance at one of Sally Carpenter’s handmade pies Sunday afternoon.
 Winning first in the division was a 2022 University of Idaho graduate, Carson Sass of Genesee, Idaho. 
 Placing second was Wesley Kems, a teen over for the day from North Powder, Ore.; and third, Chris Chronopoulos, a senior engineer at the Allen Institute in Seattle, Wash.
 At one time, Sass and three older brothers played as a family band, “but as we’ve gotten older, we’ve gone separate ways as far as careers go,” he said.
 His last time competing in Weiser was in 2018, where he finished third in the advanced division. He said he didn’t feel like he could commit enough time to practicing his banjo while working towards his double degrees in Environmental Soil Science and Plant Biotechnology.
 He said he’s going to gain some professional experience for a couple of years before moving on with graduate studies.
 “During this time, I can focus on banjo playing,” he said.
Banjo and fiddle duo
 Sunday evening’s banjo and fiddle duo finals found Hendricks and 16-year-old Arlea Forbes-Prater, of Kititas, Wash., winning first in the division.
 Don’t let her young age fool you, Forbes-Prater is well versed in fiddle, guitar, piano, and mandolin, as well as composing. She is also competing in this week’s Junior Division of the NOTFC. She will be entering her junior year of high school this fall.
 Taking second was Sass and Vi Wickham, a digital marketing expert from Loveland, Colo. Weiser knows Wickham better as a fiddle expert and standout at the NOTFC and in competitive fiddling across the nation.
 Third place went to Kim Ray, a senior consultant with Google in Boise, and Boise-based multiple-instrument music instructor Jason Young.
 Sponsored by the Idaho Bluegrass Association, the annual Weiser Banjo Contest, along with camps and educational workshops throughout the year hosted at Slocum Hall, is here for the long haul.


Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
PH: (208) 549-1717
FAX: (208) 549-1718

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