Just Sayin’: The Weiser Experience

So what is a Weiser?

A rock group, perhaps?  . .yes,  but not the experience I have in mind.

A second lead in Steel Magnolias? .  . . .yes, but not the Weiser I’m talking about.

Weiser is a particular state of mind.

Let me explain.

Great many of you in the Greater Redding Area know exactly what I’m  talking about. . . . because there is a great old time fiddling community centered in and around Redding. Ahhh, you say. Our first clue! Yup Weiser is a place on the map (if you have a really good one) that is for sure; but the WEISER EXPERIENCE way much more than that.

First, you need to picture it in your mind. Weiser is a small agricultural town of about 6 or 7000 folks. It sits on the Snake River at the gateway road into Hell’s Canyon It’s situated on the flat floodplain of the river, right up against the foothills leading into Idaho’s higher country. Back about fifty or sixty years ago, it was a pretty, but struggling community. Someone in the Chamber of commerce had this great idea that they could put on a fiddle contest and people might come to see it. And so it came to pass, as it were. Someone researched and found that there was no declared NATIONAL fiddle contest, and so that’s what they called it,

The rest, as they say…

I like to say that Weiser is kind of like Brigadoon (of Scottish legend) and only comes into being in June of each year. I swear, that about January, the farmers go out in their fields and sow ‘Weiser spoors.’ The town starts to grow up (kinda like mushrooms) and lo and behold, the third full week of June . . . there it is!! I know this must be true, but on a number of different occasions I’ve stayed on for a week or so after the event, and sure enough, Weiser begins to disappear back into the fields. Honest!

The third full week of June the population soars to somewhere around 12 – 15000 souls (yes, that is three zeros). Of course, there is very little in the way of housing so far as motels are concerned, so the great preponderance of the attendees either have trailers or motor homes or bring tents in which to camp out. Most park in the field that’s been provided behind the high school Various home owners around the high school where the event is held, have opened their homes and yards and rent out space. Some have hooks ups, some do not. Some provide bathhouses some do not.

The result of this situation is that you have hundreds of fiddlers, guitar players, mandolin players, bass players . . . a few banjo players all congregated in a pretty small area with nothing much to do for a week (Yes it lasts from Sunday to Sunday) but play their instruments.

And play they do. I’ve made the observation from time to time that at no time, day or night, during that week, if you stop and listen, you can’t hear live music being played somewhere in the vicinity.

Some of the people are there to compete in the contest. Some are there to accompany them. Some folks are just there to share and enjoy music and never enter the high school where the contest is being held at all.

There are various camps of various emphases. I.E. there’s the area where the Irish fiddlers tend to congregate; there’s the area where you’ll hear a lot of jazz and/or swing tunes; there’s the area of bluegrass emphasis, the area of Appalachian influence, but a very large proportion of folk perform in the Texas style fiddling. Of course the of the ‘funnest’ aspects of this week is that anyone, at any time, with pretty much any instrument is welcome to join any jam session or start one of their own. The caveat here being that one needs to be sensitive to the fact that some fiddler may not be jamming, but going over his contest material with his accompanists.

But the very, VERY, VERY best part is seeing , visiting and playing music with many musicians that you only get to see once a year at Weiser.

It’s a big, ever changing, reunion cemented together with music.

On, and deciding the National Old Time Fiddle Champion.

Adrienne Jacoby is a 40-plus-year resident of Shasta County and native-born Californian. She was a teacher of vocal music in the Enterprise Schools for 27 years and has been retired for 11 years.
A musician all her life, she was married to the late Bill Jacoby with whom she formed a locally well -known musical group who prided themselves in playing for weddings, wakes, riots, bar mitzvas and super market openings. And, oh yes . . . she has two children, J’Anna and Jayson.

Adrienne Jacoby
Adrienne Jacoby is a 40-plus-year resident of Shasta County and native-born Californian. She was a teacher of vocal music in the Enterprise Schools for 27 years and has been retired for 11 years. A musician all her life, she was married to the late Bill Jacoby with whom she formed a locally well -known musical group who prided themselves in playing for weddings, wakes, riots, bar mitzvas and super market openings. And, oh yes … she has two children, J’Anna and Jayson.
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12 Responses

  1. Weiser is on my Bucket List — sounds idyllic to me.

  2. Avatar Canda says:

    What a fun event to have pop up each year. Thanks for sharing, AJ.

  3. Avatar Tex says:

    Dearest AJ, you certainly have Weiser down to a "T" for sure. It is the greatest of Family Reunions! Actually, the population of the city of Weiser just hit the 4,000 mark a year or two ago.

    The contest began in 1953. 10 years later the National Old Time Fiddle Association was looking for a place to hold their contest and somehow ended up in the obscure, out of the way place called Weiser. About 30 plus years ago the Chamber of Commerce copyrighted the "National Oldtime Fiddle Contest" and has run the program ever since. Perhaps 5 or 6 years ago the CONTEST absorbed the National Old Time Fiddle Association.

    Although Weiser continues to host the most awesome Family Reunion, probably in the entire nation, to most of the visitors the competition is only an excuse to drive hundreds, and in many cases thousands, of miles to spend a week "roughing"it with friends old and new!

    Yes, sharing our love of music is sweetened by our love of sharing time with our "family." In 2013 I hope to make my 31st consecutive pilgrimage to Weiser (Idaho)!

    As the fiddlers from the Greater Redding area know, you can come to Red Bluff on Thursday thru Saturday of the Third Week in October for a Mini-family Reunion during the Western Open Fiddle Championships. Coming up is "31 in 13." Our 31st Annual Western Open, 17th Red Bluff CA Edition… 24-25-26 October 2013. (Adrian was at the first WO, and still can be seen at the contest, now MC'ing the Jukebox Divisions.)

  4. Avatar Claudia says:

    AJ…didn't your daughter, Janna, win the championship one year!

    Claudia

  5. Avatar Steve Fischer says:

    I always wondered if a guy showed up with a sax, could he join in with some of those Texas fiddlers and start a little bit of swing jam ? I've always been a Bob Wills fan.

    • Avatar `AJacoby says:

      Maybe I should have clarified STRING instrument when I talked about jamming; however, I've heard Klezmer (sp?) style clarinet on occasion. Once or twice an accordion player showed up, but they kinda mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen again. And I, too, love western swing a la Bob Wills, Spade Cooley and a number of others.

  6. Avatar pmarshall says:

    I wonder if Dr. Hawley knows about Weiser. He also plays the sax. Sounds like a great "reunion".

  7. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    Wonderful article AJ! A couple of Weiser weeks the town visitors included "Rainbow" people and a convention of bikers. The mercurial weather of Weiser is legend. One year people play music all night in shorts and t-shirts, and the next year they crowd into a garage to jam and keep warm. Their tents are blown over by the "Weiser Gusties" and after the tents are righted and secured, they fall asleep under two layers of quilts. I had my first moonshine at Weiser, but in all the years I attended, I never saw or heard of a brawl. I did hear some of the finest music I've ever heard, and met some of my musical heros. Again, AJ, you did an amazing job of describing this extraordinary event.

  8. Avatar Sheri Eby says:

    I enjoy reading all these posts to AJ's article. I've been to Weiser twice and it was amazing. Tex was the master of ceremonies. I first met and heard Alex DePue there. After going to Weiser, I went to a Mark O'Connor camp in San Diego and to my surprise many of the same people were there. Thanks for spurring fun memories.