Fiddlers have fun playing Hallettsville festival (Video)
Jennifer Lee Preyss
April 29, 2012 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated April 29, 2012 at 11:30 p.m.
HALLETTSVILLE - Bubba Hopkins marched confidently on stage at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Hallettsville on Sunday - a fiddle in one hand, a fiddle bow in the other.
Performing third in the Hallettsville Texas State Championship Fiddlers' Frolics competition, the young fiddler was as confident and unnerved as any seasoned, old-timer musician in the hall.
Surrounded by three acoustic guitarists and a double bassist, Hopkins opted to perform the classic fiddling tune "Dusty Miller."
"I'm never worried about it. A lot of other people my age get nervous before they have to go on, and they'll walk around and practice before they go. But I never get nervous," Hopkins said.
He needed to impress a panel of judges, who would be examining 28 competitors in Sunday's fiddle contest.
The rapid pace of Hopkins' left fingers moved swiftly across the neck of the instrument, which were matched only by the speed of the bow moving across the strings.
A crowd of about 300 hurled cheers and applause at the stage, as Hopkins neared the end of his song.
The 22-year-old Fort Worth resident has performed many times at the KC Hall, and has competed in the fiddling contest since he was 13 years old.
Last year, Hopkins placed second at Fiddlers'; the year before, he won third. This year, he again won second place and a $1,250 cash prize.
Even though Hopkins entered the contest to win, at Fiddlers' Frolics, everyone is a winner.
"I've competed in more than 300 of these types of competitions, but this one is my favorite," he said.
The family-friendly atmosphere with outdoor vendors and multiple bands playing live music throughout the day, makes the fiddle contest more about having fun than the rigid, stuffy competitions.
"It's relaxed here, nobody cares. People come dressed in whatever they want. And if you don't win, no one gets mad. And no one gets mad at anyone else for winning," Hopkins said. "There's a lot of politics in fiddlin' ... and I don't do that stuff."
Both the instrument and musical genre are more often associated with men of a certain age, but Hopkins said playing the fiddle is something he's known and loved for 17 years. He knows he's young, but he knows he can compete on a higher level as well.
"I wish more younger people in the general public knew more about it, and what it was and how it's different from blue grass," he said. "But there's a ton of people my age that play."
A native of Oklahoma, Hopkins said he was originally introduced to the music by his grandparents, who took him to the World Series of Fiddling when he was 3 years old. A few years later, he picked up the instrument and started to play.
"I wouldn't say I was a natural at it when I first started, but it wasn't hard," he said. "I like the fiddle because of the people that are involved in it. All these people have regular day jobs. I wouldn't do it for fame and money, and neither would they. That's not for me."
A spectator of the four-day festival, David Briggs, said he was impressed with the level of musicianship from each of the fiddlers.
"We came for the whole event because I love this type of music," said Briggs, of Eden. "I've been impressed with the music. A lot of them are really talented."
Another spectator and former fiddling competitor, Bobbi Glaze Brauner, said she enjoys returning the festival each year because it's like a big family reunion.
Brauner's former fiddling instructor, Michael Weise, also competed Sunday.
"On a personal level, this gets in your blood," Brauner, 46, said.
Playing fiddle since age 6, Brauner said she was one of the first women to compete in the male-dominated contest nearly two decades ago at age 18.
"I won second place one year. That's the closest I ever came to a woman winning the competition," she said. "Today, there are a lot of girls who play fiddle. It's great to see women carry on the tradition because they're just as good."
At the end of the all-day contest, which included multiple rounds and songs, Dennis Ludiker won first place and the $1,500 cash prize.
Hopkins won second place, and Ricky Turpin won third place and $1,000.
"Fiddling is much more musical than most people realize," Hopkins said. "And the people here are really good at it."