World Championship Fiddlers' Festival

By: Mary Lagleder

Type: General Entry

Published: March 18, 2015

Updated: August 29, 2015


The World Championship Fiddlers’ Festival is an annual fiddling festival and competition held the second week in June in Crockett, Texas. V. B. “Barker” Tunstall, Sr., a fiddler himself, started the event with others in 1937. The contest was first held on the town square and was followed by a barbecue dinner and a dance. At that time, prizes were fifty dollars for first place, twenty five dollars for second place, and goods, such as cigars or groceries, for runners-up. In its early days the event was often called Barker Tunstall’s Old Fiddler’s Festival because of its close association with Tunstall. An organizational committee consisting of Roy Garner (master of ceremonies), Eliza Bishop (historian), and others helped in the planning. By 1948 the local Jaycees had assumed organization of the event.

The contest was moved to Davy Crockett Memorial Park after World War II. The event was expanded during the 1950s to include Native-American performers, prison bands, and other types of non-fiddle entertainment as a way to appeal to a broader audience. A number of prominent Texas musicians also appeared at the festival over the years. In 1954 Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys performed, and noted fiddlers Benny Thomasson and Jim “Texas Shorty” Chancellor each won the contest three years in a row, in 1955–57 and 1959–61, respectively. In 1968 a group of past fiddling champions performed in San Antonio at HemisFair.

In the early twenty-first century the festival took place at the Crockett Civic Center, and it included a regional steak cook-off, an antique tractor show and classic car show, a parade, and a flea market and craft show. The event welcomed fiddlers of all ages and had a PeeWee Division (ages 9 and under), Junior Junior Division (ages 10 to 13), Junior Division (ages 14 to 16), Senior Division (ages 60 and above), and an Open Division. It was sanctioned by the Texas Old Time Fiddlers Association and judged by members of that organization through 2010. In 2011 the competition, which celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary, was listed as a “Non-Association Contest.” By 2014, with the loss of sponsorship from the Crockett Chamber of Contest, festival organizers moved the event back to Davy Crockett Memorial Park in late October. Competitors qualified for four divisions—ages 18 and under, Senior Division (ages 60 and over), and Open Division, and Accompanist.

Joe Angle, “The World’s Champion Fiddler’s Festival at Crockett, an East Texas Tradition,” East Texas Historical Journal 8 (October 1970). Caleb Beames, Crockett hoping to keep World Championship Fiddlers’ Festival alive,” KTRE.com (http://www.ktre.com/story/26836208/crockett-hoping-to-keep-world-championship-fiddlers-festival-alive), accessed September 2, 2015. Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 7, 1994. Houston Chronicle, May 28, 2006. Texas Old Time Fiddlers Association (http://www.totfa.org/), accessed September 2, 2015.

Categories:

  • Music
  • Events and Festivals

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Mary Lagleder, “World Championship Fiddlers' Festival,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 24, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/world-championship-fiddlers-festival.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 18, 2015
August 29, 2015

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects:

Loading