NOTFC among 2022 Governor’s Awards in the Arts recipients

In an Oct. 15 public announcement, the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest and Festival, Weiser’s premier event and world-stage calling card, is among Idaho’s 2022 Governor’s Awards in the Arts winners selected by Governor Brad and First Lady Teresa Little.
 Idaho’s biennial Governor’s Awards in the Arts dates back to 1970, one of the first states to establish a recognition of artists, art organizations, and supporters of the arts across the state. With eight award categories, the NOTFC has been designated the arts organization winner of the 2022 Excellence in Folk and Traditional Arts. 
 “Born and raised in Weiser, I have lifelong memories of the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest and Festival,” First Lady Teresa Little said in a statement to the Weiser Signal American. “It’s no surprise this annual contest has drawn in people from all over the country for 70 years! The sense of community, showcase of talent, and pure fun make this event one of our state’s highlights every year.”
 It can easily be said the NOTFC is the longest continuously running music event in the state, if not the nation, with its beginnings in 1953. After the 2020 pandemic cancellation of the contest, the only time in its history, the festival’s leadership cautiously brought the event back online in 2021. 2022 saw a very positive uptick in contest participants, along with a big jump in ticket sales and attendance.
 “I was quite pleased with the number of contestants in Weiser last summer,” NOTFC Board Chair Bruce Campbell said.
 Both now retired Weiser School District educators, Campbell and his wife, Cindy, started volunteering in the judging room of the contest in 1978. Two years later, Bruce took the position of general chairman, while Cindy took over the judging room.
 “And, it’s been that way ever since,” Campbell said.
 The organization’s Executive Director Sandy Cooper joined the staff in 2007, transitioning from the position of administrative assistant and festival director to executive director in 2010. The three agree the event has introduced them to world class musicians from throughout the U.S. and the world.
 “We have met and known the ‘who’s who’ in fiddling,” Cindy said. “From Texas to Canada, the east to west coasts. People we would have never met.”
“I have had something like five or six Grammy award winners on the stage in the park,” Cooper added. 
 One of those rising stars is guitarist and 2021 Grammy winner Billy Strings. Just this past July, Strings added NOTFC 2007 Grand National Fiddle Champion Alex Hargreaves to his band. It might be considered a full-circle Weiser connection.
 “Another one is Brooks Robertson,” Cooper said. “Buster B. Jones kind of came off the road to mentor Brooks, and now he plays all over the country and Europe.”
 Over its 70 years, the festival has transitioned and adapted through continuous cultural and societal changes. 
 “I think the whole theme for the last three years is adaptation,” Cooper said. “Doing the best you can with what you have and under the circumstances. I was so pleased with the number of contestants that came this year. We knew when talking to people who were making campground reservations that they fully intended to be here.” 
 “I was reading something from Celeste Johnson where she said her favorite contest is Weiser,” Cindy said. “I think that feeling is because they get to live it, live among it for the entire week.”
 In his nomination of the NOTFC for the Governor’s Award, Gary Eller, himself a 2020 Support of the Arts awardee, wrote: “But ‘Weiser Week’ is much more than just a fiddle contest. Few small towns in America have an event that brings greater town recognition or attracts so many readily accessible high-level musicians of many types. And notably, most attendees never go to the contest per se, but come to renew friendships going back many decades and to jam with old and new friends all day and night in the campgrounds.”
 Eller continued, “Over the past nearly 70 years, literally thousands of volunteers have helped to make the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest and Festival such a highly successful event. However, none are more worthy of special recognition than Sandra Cooper (Executive Director), Bruce Campbell (President), and Cindy Campbell (Vice-President).”
 Anticipating the Governor’s Awards ceremony at the Idaho State Museum on the afternoon of Nov. 28, event coordinators suggested a fiddle rendition of the National Anthem, along with a few minutes of fiddling entertainment.  
 Meridian based fiddle instructor, performer, session recorder, and the NOTFC’s first ever six-time Grand National Champion Katrina Nikolayeff has lined up a cast of young, but well-seasoned Idaho fiddlers to fill the bill, including 2022’s Young Adult Champion Mikaela Shippy Ruggs, Caldwell; Jaidynn Lee (16), Boise, fifth place champion in the 2022 Junior Division; and. 2022 6th place winner in the Junior division, Jetta Brooks (13), of Middleton. 
 Looking at 2023s (June 19-24) 70th contest and festival to be “big,” the Campbell’s, Cooper, and the entire NOTFC board see the award as an opportunity to bring additional attention and draw for both participants and visitors to town.
 The Campbells said the recognition the Governor’s Award will bring to the NOTFC and to Weiser as a whole is all positive.
 Information surrounding the award will be noted in all of the contest and festival’s upcoming correspondence, as well as on its website and social media outlets, Cindy said.
 “With this 70th anniversary, it would be wonderful for the community of Weiser to recognize and use the honor and mention the 2023 contest and festival in their media advertising, too,” Cindy added.



Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
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