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Joe Lautzenheiser, 26, and Karrey Varble, 40, duet together on the stage playing alongside other competitors. The Ohio State Old-Time Fiddling Contest was held at Stuart's Opera House during the Parade of the Hills in Nelsonville on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021.

Fiddlers compete in Nelsonville for grand prize during Old Time Music Week

Fiddlers from around the region came to Nelsonville on Friday, Aug. 20, to compete in the Ohio State Old Time Fiddlers’ Contest held at Stuart’s Opera House.

Contestants in four age groups competed for the title of “Grand Champion.” Old-time tunes like “Florida Blues” and “I Don’t Love Nobody” were played in the final round.

Four-time champion Joe Lautzenheiser, a 26-year-old from North Lawrence, took home the champion title for the 2021 annual contest.

The rules of the contest had judges turn their backs to the stage and only listen to the notes and how well each competitor played. Each fiddler had a number randomly assigned to them to keep it fair for judging.

Each competitor could play two songs, including a hoedown and a waltz for the contest. Each winner from the age group participated in the final round. In the end, Lautzenheiser won the title.

“It’s a smaller contest this year,” Lautzenheiser said. “Kind of bad, it's a dying art. Old-time music — that’s the best part to come and lift people’s hearts.”

The fiddle is a traditional Appalachian instrument, and the traditional music played that night filled Stuart’s Opera House but for a smaller crowd this year. After taking place online in 2020, the contest saw some contestants eager to go back on stage and perform old-time tunes that kept the spirit of Appalachian culture alive.

“We are always pleased to host the historic Old Time Fiddlers Contest in our historic venue on behalf of the Parade of the Hills,” Chloe Musick, marketing director of Stuart’s Opera House, said in an email. “As a leader in the arts community in southeast Ohio, we are thrilled to welcome guests into Stuart's Opera House to experience the rich history of Old Time music and its impact on our region.”

Check out the photos from the annual fiddler’s contest below.


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