Fiddlers' Pilgrimage: The Legacy of Weiser

Western Folklife Center logo                                     FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 24, 2013

Contact: Darcy Minter, 775.340.4240
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Fiddlers' Pilgrimage: The Legacy of Weiser
A Concert Event and Radio Documentary

Boise, ID— The Western Folklife Center, a regional cultural organization headquartered in Elko, Nevada, presents Fiddlers’ Pilgrimage: The Weiser Legacy, a tribute to the National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest and Festival, which celebrates its 61st year in 2013. The tribute will include a concert event featuring some of the top competitors and musical groups participating at Weiser, as well as an hour-long radio documentary that will be broadcast statewide on KBSU. The concert will take place on Friday, May 10 at 7:00 pm at Boise State University Special Events Center, 1800 West University Drive. Featured are Squeaky Strings, a youth fiddle group from Weiser, Idaho; Idyltime, a harmony-singing old-time quartet; Rue Frisbee, who plays old-style Northwest fiddle tunes as a solo performer and high-energy bluegrass with the group Chicken Dinner Road which will also perform; and Sedra Bistodeau, a world-class champion fiddler from Minnesota, who will perform hot fiddle accompanied by Rick Youngblood. Tickets are available online through, or by calling 208-426-1494. You can also purchase tickets through the National Oldtime Fiddle Contest and Festival offices at 208-414-0255, or at the door the night of the event. General admission ticket prices are $15 for adults, and $7 for youth 18 and under or seniors over 65. Free parking will be provided at BSU’s Lincoln Garage.

The companion one-hour radio documentary of Fiddlers’ Pilgrimage airs on KBSU-FM 90.3 on May 18 at 7:00 pm and on news station KBSX-FM 91.5 on May 19 at 8:00 pm. The radio program explores the reasons that this vintage form of music is thriving in our time, and why Weiser has become the destination for fiddle enthusiasts from all over the country. All of the musicians featured in the concert are also included in the radio show, plus many more. In June 2012, Western Folklife Center producers Taki Telonidis and Hal Cannon spent 10 days at the 60th National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest and Festival recording music, interviews and sound-rich scenes for this radio special.

The traditional American art form of old-time fiddling continues to thrive in our century. The western mecca for this artform is the town of Weiser, Idaho, where each June devoted players and their fans attend the National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest and Festival. For more than 60 years, the contest has been the defining cultural event for this agricultural community of farmers and ranchers. Through this concert event and radio documentary, the Western Folklife Center will give audiences a front-row seat to the Fiddlers Contest, as well as a behind-the-curtains look at the community of people drawn to this art form.

Fiddle contests are a form of competition that predates the American Revolution—a type of music that has come to have strict rules, even though “formal training” and musical scores take a back seat to playing by ear. They are a rural pastime endorsed by Henry Ford nearly a century ago, yet practiced today by a new generation of young people from both rural and urban communities. Although the contest is the magnet that draws most people to Weiser, it is not the only attraction for old-time fiddlers. Over the decades, a parallel scene has developed on the fringes of the official contest which represents a less formal, more social side of old-time fiddling. It takes place in the campsites around Weiser where scores of fiddlers pitch tents under the cottonwoods and play music in groups throughout the long days and short nights of the summer solstice. While the official contest is about solo virtuosity, this parallel gathering focuses on music as a social experience.

Fiddlers' Pilgrimage was made possible through the generous support of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, with assistance from the National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest and Festival. Additional support was provided by the Idaho Humanities Council, a state-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and by Boise State Public Radio.

The Western Folklife Center is dedicated to exploring, presenting and preserving the diverse and dynamic cultural heritage of the American West. We celebrate the wisdom, artistry and ingenuity of western folkways through exhibitions, educational programs, national radio and television programs, research and preservation projects, our website, and our premier event, The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. We nurture connections among rural and ranching cultures globally, exploring universal themes in working traditions and artistic expression, which we believe are vital links to the past, present and future of the American West.

Photos available upon request.


Fiddlers' Pilgrimage Concert Performers

Squeaky Strings is a group of student fiddlers from the Weiser area who range in age from 8 to12 years-old. Squeaky Strings started in 2009 with nine fiddlers as an after-school program thanks to the vision of the National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest and Festival, the Weiser School District and the Washington County 4-H program. After receiving a grant from the Idaho Women’s Charitable Foundation in 2011, the Squeaky Strings were able to expand to include more instruments and a summer camp devoted to teaching youth the power of music. Today the group consists of 15 fiddlers, three guitar players and two stand-up bass players. They play all over the Northwest and in Weiser during Fiddle Week to showcase their music. The group is organized by Missy Chambers.

Idyltime is a Boise-based string band that originally formed on the South Coast region of Oregon in 2010. When Beth and Tate Mason moved to Boise they visited a regular jam session at Pengilly’s Saloon where they met Ava Honey and Dave Daley. Fueled by a common musical thread, this four-piece group has teamed up to delve into their common love for acoustic roots music. Soulful singing and down-to-earth melodies sing to their hearts so they began working on old-time music as heard on ancient 78 records accompanied by guitars, bass, fiddles and banjo. Since moving to Idaho in 1974, fiddler Dave Dailey has played with numerous groups and organizes square, contra, swing, and Irish dances. Idyltime is part of a scene at Weiser called Stickerville, where musicians show-up as much as a week before the official festivities to play music around their camps. When things start heating up at the contest they often pack up and go home.

Born in 1944, Rue Frisbee is a lifelong Emmett, Idahoan, from the famous fiddling Frisbee family. He has fiddled in countless contests and bands over the years and never finished out of the top five at the national championship in Weiser, competing against such legends as Clark Kessinger, Byron Berline, Sammie Bush and Loyd Wanzer. Rue’s father Dave and sister Faye were also champion fiddlers. Formerly an assistant postmaster, Rue now operates a fruit farm on Frozen Dog Road in Emmett and plays fiddle in the progressive bluegrass band Chicken Dinner Road. Rue also is known for his lively recitations of original poems composed by his Uncle Clive, a colorful Idaho sheepherder.

Chicken Dinner Road is an eclectic band from Idaho’s Treasure Valley that dabbles in all kinds of acoustic music using bluegrass instrumentation. Chicken Dinner Road applies close trio vocal harmony and hot picking to original compositions and cover songs from many sources, resulting in one of Idaho’s premier progressive bluegrass bands. Dennis Stokes (lead vocals, mandolin, guitar) formed the band as a result of a chance open mic encounter in 2006. Rue Frisbee (fiddle) and Gary Eller (banjo) are second generation Chicken Dinner Road Roosters. L. B. Robertson (guitar and mandolin) and John Blakley (bass) joined in the third incarnation of the band. Chicken Dinner Road entered the bluegrass band contest at the National Oldtime Fiddle Contest and Festival three times and won first place each time. Roosters can always be found jamming from noon to the wee hours at the Weiser campgrounds during Fiddle Week.

Eighteen-year-old Sedra Bistodeau began playing the violin at age three. She is both a violin and fiddle prodigy. In the fiddle world, Sedra appears in the soon-to-be-released TV documentary, The Devil's Box, has completed a recording with Peter Ostroushko, and has made numerous appearances on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion. She is also heard as a special guest on the most recent recording from noted violin improviser Alex DePue. Currently recognized as one of the top ten fiddlers in the United States, Sedra has accumulated multiple awards including two first-place finishes in the Junior division at the National Oldtime Fiddle Contest and Festival, first place at the coveted “Gone to Texas” division at the Fiddlers' Frolics in Halletsville, Texas, and three first-place finishes at the Wisconsin State Championships. In 2011, she won first place in both divisions of the inaugural DePue Brothers’ International Fiddle Competition, as well as fourth place in the Open Division of the National Oldtime Fiddle Contest. Sedra began performing with her family, The Bistodeau Family Band, at age six and has since recorded three CDs with them. As a violin prodigy, Sedra has earned many honors. This year, Sedra was unanimously chosen as the Young People's Symphony Concert Association's top grand-prize winner. As a result, she will perform as a soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra for a series of appearances throughout the year.