The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

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June 4, 2014

Not just fiddling around

GREENVILLE — A trio of western swing musicians played “San Antonio Rose” and “Right or Wrong” Tuesday morning, at the start of an event officially announcing the inaugural Bob Wills Fiddle Festival and Contest, scheduled October 31-November 2.

Several downtown Greenville locations — including the Greenville Municipal Auditorium (GMA) and the Texan Theater — will host activities associated with the festival.

Wills’ oldest daughter Carolyn said she was “just delighted” Greenville will host the festival.

“This is just an amazing city,” Wills said. “The people here are just so helpful and professional.”

Joey McKenzie, who along with his wife Sherry operates Twin Fiddle Productions, which is organizing the fiddle contest, was especially impressed by the GMA, which is turning 75 this year.

“I can’t think of a more appropriate city and venue for this event,” McKenzie said.

The festival is being conducted in conjunction with Wills’ estate and the Bob Wills Heritage Association. The fiddle contest will feature nationally recognized judges and is expected to draw fiddlers of all ages from around the country.

The evenings will feature nationally known Western Swing acts at the Texan Theater and GMA. The Saturday night concert at the GMA will be headlined by the Time Jumpers, whose members include Vince Gill and Nashville session fiddle player and Whitewright native Larry Franklin.

Wills was known as the “King of Western Swing.” Wills was inducted into the County Music Hall of Fame in 1968, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007, for his significant contributions to American music fro the 1930s to the 1960s.

“People will be listening to Bob Wills and his music 500 years from now,” McKenzie said, adding the contest is expected to attract a wide range of talent.

“This is a serious fiddle contest,” he said. “There will be national champion fiddlers playing here. There will be world champion fiddle players entering this contest,”

Sherry McKenzie agreed, noting contestants are likely to come from across the nation and as far away as Canada.

“Greenville is one of many, but I think it can quickly become the premier fiddle event in the United States,” she said.

While the schedule of activities during the festival is still being compiled, Milton Babb, tourism and marketing director with the Greenville Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors Bureau, said organizers are looking for locations where visitors will be able to dance.

“Western swing is such happy music, it makes you want to dance,” Babb said.

A kick-off party is planned at the Texan Theater on the night of October 31, featuring Grammy award winning western swing fiddler Jason Roberts.

“We’re going to have a bunch of fun that evening,” said Brett Bingham with the Bob Wills Heritage Association. “The working title is ‘An Evening With Bob Wills.’”

The Texan Theater is in the final stages of a multi-million dollar renovation project and should be ready in time for its official grand opening event on October 24, featuring Asleep at the Wheel.

“We’re looking at opening the coffee shop, hopefully, by the end of July or early August,” said general manager Randy Kirby. “As far as the theater itself, we hope to get the keys in August or September.”

Preliminary rounds of the fiddle contest are scheduled at the GMA on Saturday, November 1, with the finals on Sunday, November 2, followed by an awards ceremony.

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