Roberts 2024 Grand Champ

The Fiddle Family Collaboration performed Saturday night just before Ridge Roberts, fiddling, was named the 2024 NOTFC Grand National Champion. The stage was filled with contest title holders, from left, Luke and Rachel Price, Luke Bulla, Julian Oliver, Roberts,Tristan Clarridge, Tashina Lindley, Celeste Johnson, and Katie Glassman. What a night! Photo by Nancy Grindstaff

Above, left, is Ridge Roberts, 21, who won the 2024 National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest Grand Champion title. Photo by Nancy Grindstaff.
Nancy Grindstaff
“Wow! That was a contest,” Weiser’s Pat Hamilton said after hearing the third round of the Grand National division of the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest Saturday night. “How do they decide between them?”
 It wasn’t an understatement.
 After a day and a-half of fierce competition between 16 fiddlers that started Friday afternoon, when the curtain dropped in front of a full house on Saturday night, 21-year-old Texas fiddler Ridge Roberts was named the 2024 Grand National Champion.
 This year’s final results were going to be remarkable whoever finished with the highest cumulative score. The top eight included three multiple-title grand champions, Luke Price, Portland, Ore., (5); Katrina Nicolayeff, Meridian, Idaho (6); and Tristan Clarridge, Mt. Shasta, Calif., (5); plus five fiddlers ranging in age from 16 to 61, each vying for their first win in the division: Roberts, Granbury, Texas; Jesse Quintana, Lakewood, Colo.; Celeste Johnson, Denver, Colo.; Katie Glassman, Venice, Calif.; and Monte Gaylord, Nowata, Okla.
 After that mind-boggling third round and then the division was cut to those five finalists, there was a 100 percent chance of a brand new national champion being crowned.
 Throughout the five and a-half days of fiddling last week, Roberts had been mentioned to the Signal American by more than a few of the younger division contestants as a particular fiddling influence and inspiration for them.
 He has his own list of legendary fiddle greats whose music continues to influence him, a good number of them connected back to the Weiser contest: Terry Morris, Jimmie Don Bates, Benny Thomasson, Major Franklin, Vernon and Norman Solomon, and Orville Burns. It turns out Roberts and the other champions being built are perfect conduits for the threads that run deep through the oldtime music legacy celebrated here every June.
 Roberts has a solid list of championship titles dating back to his first Junior Junior division win here in 2015. He holds three titles won in 2018, the Oklahoma State Championship, Grand Lakes National Championship, and the World Championship in Crockett, Texas. In 2019, he won the Colorado State Champion title, and the invitational Grand Masters Championship in Nashville, Tenn.
 After Saturday night’s awards were handed out, Roberts told the Signal American he feels very blessed.
 “It’s a gift from God that I get to play, so I’m just really grateful,” he said. “It’s an awesome experience, I just love coming here. It’s been five years since I’ve been here.”
 He’s been a member of The Western Flyers western-swing band for the past five years with another former NOTFC division title holder and longtime accompanist Joey McKenzie, along with upright bass player Matthew Mefford. The band is occasionally joined by celebrated Canadian guitarist Redd Voelkaert. In fact, the group regularly sets up gigs in the northwest every summer, with a month of play dates and fiddle camps in Oregon starting July 7.
 Roberts told the Signal American that even though this was his first time back to the NOTFC since 2019, “I definitely want to be back, and I want to bring Joey. I’m going back to the campground now, hang out, and do some jamming,” Roberts smiled. “Probably stay up all night. Then my parents and I will head back home to Texas, doing about a 12-hour day, and then another 12-hour day.”
 “That was a contest!” indeed describes the 2024 71st National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest and Festival and if you missed it, be sure to mark your 2025 calendar now for June 15 through 21.


Signal American

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

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