Bluegrass and Fiddle Season in AZ

 

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As I write this blog in March, the desert is blooming. California poppies cover the hillsides and blue lupine are profuse along the roadsides.   

The AZ Season always starts for us with the State Fiddle Contest in September in Payson.  Dave fiddled and played guitar for other fiddlers. A special treat was seeing Katie Glassman perform with her excellent group.

In October the fiddlers, pickers and grinners gathered at Salome for a weekend of enjoyment. Performances were held on stage at the Lions Club house with fiddlers and other performers taking turns entertaining an appreciative audience.

The Wickenberg Bluegrass Festival begins the bluegrass season.  The November festival is held at the fairgrounds and the events are on a stage in the arena. A highlight for many is the “Ragtime Annie Joke Telling Contest” sponsored by Laura Barry and Corrine Garey. Impartial judges are appointed and hilarious jokes ensue.

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Thanksgiving found us in the desert near Bouse AZ with Susie and Harold Pangle (turkey griller extraordinaire) and others. Meals were held out of doors in the warmest part of the day. Picking and fiddling were indoors in Pangle’s big fifth wheel trailer.

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We made it to Nebraska to see our family in mid December. Matt and Jennifer were great hosts. Sandy and Ross were able to be with us as we celebrated Matt’s Birthday, Christmas and Jennifer winning a seat as Lancaster County commissioner.

Another December event was to join Pangle’s, Denny and Elaine Carlson, Jim and Juany Dixon, Harold’s daughter and family for Christmas in the desert on American Girl Mine Road near Yuma AZ. More picking and fiddling and petting Charly the poodle.

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Back to Yuma we go as the new year rolls around. The first fiddle contest of 2017 is held at the Jaycee clubhouse. For Yumans, it is the kickoff of the rodeo week. The truck gardens in this lush valley are overflowing with produce; the salad basket of the USA. Camping alongside us are Denny and Elaine Carlson, Laura Barry and Tom Rude.

After the contest we follow the Carlson’s trailer to the Dome Valley of southwest Arizona and back our little Luci trailer into a sweet spot in Larry and Pat Rose’s yard. Electric hookup and fresh water are a plus! Already in place are the trailers of the Pangles, Diane and Arn Berg have made it from Montana, Jim and Juany Dixon from Idaho, Tom and Katie Bonn, also from Idaho. Evening meals are taken in a very well appointed “Chicken Coop.” Chairs are set in a circle and jamming happens. A grand piano sits in a corner. To the enjoyment of all, Susie plays the piano, Charly keeps her company near her feet and Dave plays the fiddle.

From the Dome Valley we head to Blythe California, just across the border from Arizona. Friends, Gary and Millie Vannoy have saved us a spot near their jam tent. Cool weather makes jamming inside the tent with propane heaters a good thing. This is a big festival. Jake and Jeannie Jacobs, friends from Washington state, always work here helping folks find a good spot to camp. Lots of good bands are performing on two stages and inside when the weather turned nasty. We enjoyed the Boxcars, Big Mill, Flint Hill Special, Flatt Lonesome, Old Blue Band, The Sonoran Dogs, John Reischman and the Jaybirds, Chris Jones and the Night Drivers and Justin Sherfey and Rye River. Three full days of music.

Back home in Surprise we welcomed Sandy for several days in February. We put a 2000 piece puzzle together, went shopping and cooked meals. She accompanied us camping in the desert on the mine loop road near Ajo AZ. We hiked and loved the desert views and sunsets and meals with all our friends who were camped there too.

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We relocated to the Ajo Country Club for the fiddle contest. Dave and Katie competed in separate divisions and together in twin fiddling. Laura Barry’s kids and grandkids also competed. Lots of other good fiddlers were there too. Watching the resident Great Horned Owls was a treat for Sandy and me. She and I spent a day at the Sonoran Desert Museum near Tucson enjoying flora and fauna and especially the hummingbird pavilion. I found a very nice Navajo wedding basket at the gift shop.

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We dropped Sandy off at Mesa Gateway Airport on our way to Safford Fiddle contest She made it back to Nebraska about the time we made it to our hotel in Safford. More good fiddling and fun watching Jess Barry and his three kids fiddle. Listening to Jess Barry and Jesse Stockman tear it up on their fiddles and guitars was a treat. John Kennedy was there from Mayer AZ, a smooth fiddler. Lots of competition made for a good contest.

Our son Ross flew down from Nebraska the third week of February. It was good to see him. He got in some golf, helped us shop for a new car and helped cook. We all took in a college baseball game that the Nebraska team was in. We also visited Taliesin West built by Frank Lloyd Wright.

As Ross was returning to Nebraska, we were heading for the fiddle contest at Tucson. This is a one day only contest that Dave had never been to.  We went early and had lunch with Tom and Katie who had parked their trailer at Billie’s place just west of the city. Laura Barry invited us to stay with her for the contest and had a great meal fixed. Sue and Bill Elsclager came over and pretty soon Jess and kids came plus Jesse Stockman and his son. The place was rocking.

The contest was held in a school gym  with a good amount of young fiddlers attending.  In the evening we went to Sue’s house and had pizza and a jam. Back at Laura’s house the band Crucial County was practicing. The place was still rocking and rollicking. Sunday Laura fixed a great breakfast, the menagerie departed and Laura suggested we visit San Xavier Del Bac mission. We piled into the big white truck with Tom driving and motored a few miles south of Tucson to see this white mission compound. The parking area was packed with church goers and sight seeing tourists. Food vendors were selling to everyone. The mission was spectacular. Beautifully restored and historically curated. It was stunning.

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Now March is here and the days are longer and warmer. No need for two blankets on the bed in the trailer at the Lake Havasu Bluegrass on the Beach festival. Denny and Elaine had saved us a spot near them and Jake and Jeannie. The stage sat at one end of a lovely green lawn with the white sand beach and lake to one side. Great parking lot picking went on all hours. The Boxcars, Country Current, Kevin Prater band, Wayne Taylor, Bluegrass Etc. and more were on stage. Many of our snowbird friends said goodby and were heading home. We hope to see them all next year.

Dave will play with Nehemiah band and Jerry Dunnaway at the Glendale AZ Folkfest and the last festival will take place in Marana AZ at the end of March. Dave will be playing there with the Side of Grits band.  We look forward to hearing Crucial County there too.