This was my first time participating in the Mini Masters Little Fiddle Contests, which is an unofficial (but important) part of the National Oldtime Fiddle Contest in Weiser, Idaho. The Mini Masters happens late in the week, and is an opportunity for the fiddlers to blow off a little steam after an intense week of competition. Fiddlers win prizes for a variety of things including the best mini-fiddle polka, with fun (white-elephant style) prizes.
All of the contestants in the Mini Masters play one fiddle tune on a little fiddle (1/4 size or smaller.) The finals are on a 1/16 size, and the lightning round is on a 1/32 size. The accompanists all play miniature instruments as well. There was a mini piano, 3 mini guitars, a cello tuned as a bass, and a banjo-uke tuned like a tenor banjo. Bribes to the judges and accompanists are not just allowed, they are encouraged. And, heckling of the other contestants is just part of the fun.
The Mini Masters was created by Kimber Ludiker, and someone else about 7 or 8 years ago according to the people I talked with about it. If you know the other founder, feel free to post a comment.
This story really starts closer to 20 years ago with the Ragtime Annie Contest. Under the same motivation, of having some fun, Levi Dennis and Warren Lee Adams founded the Ragtime Annie Contest, where the contestants would each play Ragtime Annie and tell a family friendly joke. It was a lot of fun, and one-time featured a kitchen sink as the grand prize trophy. Eventually the Ragtime Annie Contest fizzled out, and thankfully Kimber (and someone else) stepped up to the plate and made some magic happen!
I was lucky enough to be chosen to participate in this years’ Mini Masters Contest, and I played Wild John. I hope you enjoy it.
Wild John according to Fiddler’s Companion
WILD JOHN. Old-Time, Breakdown. USA, Texas. C Major. Standard tuning. AA’BB’CC. See the related tunes “Rocky Pallet” and “Rattlesnake Bit the Baby.” Source for notated version: Gary Lee Moore & Benny Thomasson (Texas) [Phillips]. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), vol. 1, 1994; pg. 258.