Every year on the last friday in May, people begin gathering on the lawn of the Henderson county courthouse in Athens, Texas. They spread blankets and unfold chairs, and stake out their places in the shade under the towering hardwood trees. Fiddle cases are opened, bows are rosined, and music begins to sing out across the grass. Vendors set up booths selling snow cones, homemade ice cream, funnel cakes, T-shirts, and various other foods, trinkets, and other items.
In 1932, the first fiddlers contest was held in Bethel, Texas. It attracted around 900 people. The city of Athens, Texas lured the festival to its courthouse square the next year, and it was held there in 1933 and every year siince.
The contest is open to all both young and old, and judging is based solely on the talent of the fiddler. Contestants have ranged in age from 6 to 85, and contest winners have ranged from 11 to octagenarians.
The competition is currently broken down into five divisions, each with five prizes, and there is an overall grand prize - usually in the area of $700. Judges look at bowing technique, tempo, tune and the contestant's adherence to the sound of old-time fiddle music.
This weekend festival is a tradition now of more than 70 years in Athens, and attracts many of the best fiddle players from around the state and country. If you love fiddle music and are in the area, don't miss this for the world!