The celebration kicks off Thursday, June 17, with opening ceremonies and the Itty Bitty Hillbilly Pageant, which, according to Monica Gann, is a really popular event. (See page 8A for more information on the pageant as well as a program of events for each day of the event.)
On Friday, there is an all-you-can-eat fish fry, which includes catfish, fries, slaw, and Ms. Ercie’s hush puppies and a drink.
“We always have a really good turnout for that,” said Gann.
On Saturday, those who attend will get to hear bluegrass musicians from all over the country compete for prize money. According to Gann, the attendance for the bluegrass performances has never been as great as for the other events, but that’s something she hopes will change this year.
“We mailed out to a lot more musicians this year,” she said. “We’ve been getting a lot of calls about music this year so we’re hoping we have a good turnout for music this year.”
“We also have some really good judges,” she said.
Judging the competitions this year are Jim Wood, Fred Duggin, and Boyd Deering.
Wood is a fiddle player from Tennessee who has won the Tennessee State Fiddle Championship five times. He is a recording artist and owns and operates Pinewood Studio. He has worked with Roy Acuff, Vince Gill, and Emmylou Harris.
Duggin began playing guitar as a teenager, and has placed at the National Flatpick Guitar Championships in Kinfield, KS and won the State of Tennessee Old-Time Fiddlers’ contest in guitar and Blue Grass band. He is the owner of SongCity Studios in Nashville, TN. Duggin had a number one video on CMT called “Seed of Love” with his old band The New Tradition.
Deering is a local mandolin player from Lafayette, who began playing mandolin at the age 10, learning a few songs from his father. He has earned approximately 70 first places in mandolin, acoustic guitar, and fiddle in competitions. He took the top three honors in mandolin at the Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention in 1986 as well as the top three honors at the Kentucky State Fiddler’s Contest at the age of 16. In 1994, he took the top three honors on acoustic guitar at Merlefest, and he has claimed first place on guitar and mandolin eight times at the Smithville Fiddler’s Jamboree. Boyd has played the Grand Ole Opry and has shared the stage with the Charlie Daniels Band, Josh Graves, John Anderson, Johnny Gimble, John McEuen, Peter Rowan, David Allen Coe, and the Cumberland Boys. Boyd was even in a Madonna video shoot.
“It just shows you the talent of the judges,” said Gann. “We hope that pulls in a lot of musicians because they’re really well-known.”
New to this year’s Hillbilly Days is the Ped Scruggs Memorial Fiddle Challenge, in which the Sr. Fiddle and Jr. Fiddle winners battle it out on stage.
“Ped Scruggs died earlier this year,” said Gann. “He was a great man and he was a wonderful fiddle player.”
Saturday also features the Rhythm-in-Motion clogging team, which includes members from all over the state, and the Mr. and Miss Hillbilly contest. Billy Roark (Mr. Hillbilly) and Sherry Hudgens (Ms. Hillbilly) have been going around collecting money for the Lafayette Lions Club, who host the event. The one who raises the most money gets to throw a pie in the other’s face.
If public humiliation, bluegrass music, clogging and pageants aren’t your cup of iced tea, then show up for the shopping and food. According the B.J. Blankenship there are usually between 100-150 vendors set up and “any kind of food a person could want.”
Several vendors are coming in from all over, and, so far about ten to fifteen states are represented.
Several politicians will also have booths there if anyone wants to pose questions to candidates.
There will also be contests for the youngest and oldest in attendance, the farthest traveled, and longest married couple, as well as games, rides and craft booths for the young ‘uns.