"Monumental" Fiddling Championships Coming To Homestead National Monument of America

The 2012 Monumental Fiddling Championships will be held at Homestead National Monument of America on May 26. NPS photo.

The fiddle, a key instrument for entertainment on the American frontier of the mid-1800s, will be featured in May when the 2012 Monumental Fiddling Championships are held at Homestead National Monument of America in southeastern Nebraska.

The championships on May 26 will cap a week-long celebration in honor of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Homestead Act.

The day will begin with workshops in the morning, competition in the afternoon and a concert by renowned folk musician John McCutcheon in the evening. McCutcheon is one of the country's most respected and loved folksingers. As an instrumentalist, he is a master of a dozen different traditional instruments, most notably the rare and beautiful hammer dulcimer. His songwriting has been hailed by critics and singers around the globe. His thirty recordings have garnered every imaginable honor, including seven Grammy nominations.

"We are excited to have added a concert by John McCutcheon in the evening. It should be the perfect way to end an already exciting competition," said Mark Engler, monument superintendent.

Returning to the 2012 Monumental Fiddling Championship are Debbie Greenblatt and David Seay. Greenblatt and Seay, a musical group described as the Sonny and Cher of southeast Nebraska, run the One-Room Schoolhouse in Avoca, Nebraska. They have helped coordinate the Monumental Fiddling Championships since its beginning in 1999.

The Monumental Fiddling Championship will begin with three free workshops:

10 a.m. - 12 p.m. John McCutcheon shares his songwriting talents;

10 a.m. - 12 p.m. Debbie Greenblatt gives fiddling tip to new and experienced players; and

11:30 a.m. - 12 p.m. David Seay leads a harmonica workshop.

The fiddling competition begins at 1 p.m. The one rule which makes this competition unique is that all songs must have been written between 1863, when the first homestead was filed, and 1936, when Homestead National Monument of America was established. A "Round of Champions" featuring winners from the afternoon competition will be from 6 to 7 p.m. John McCutcheon will perform at 7 p.m.

The fiddle was the ideal frontier instrument, according to the Encyclopedia of the Great Plains, "People moving westward carried the small, compact fiddle in their wagons or in their saddlebags. The fiddler could generally be heard anywhere a crowd gathered, including political rallies, militia musters, housewarmings, barn raisings, and fiddle contests." This same music will once again be heard at Homestead National Monument of America on May 26, 2012.

The event is made possible through grants from the Leigh F, Jane M and Leigh M Coffin Foundation, the Nebraska Arts Council, the Beatrice Arts Council, Eastern National Bookstores, and the Friends of Homestead. All activities that day will be free.