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.