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Fiddlers, step dancers take the stage

By Celina Ip

Fiddle judge Calvin Vollrath listens attentively as fellow judge Shane Cook jots down a note during the playdowns on Friday afternoon.

Fiddle judge Calvin Vollrath listens attentively as fellow judge Shane Cook jots down a note during the playdowns on Friday afternoon.


The Pembroke Memorial Centre (PMC) was alive with the sounds of with fiddling and step dancing as dozens showed off their skills for the first day of the 42nd Old Time Fiddling and Step Dancing Championships.


According to contest chairwoman Diane Hickey, this year’s talent pool is 155 contestants deep, with a relatively equal number of children and adults who will be taking to the stage on Friday and Saturday.

“We have a few more contestants this year and just lots of good talent all around,” said Hickey. “And the first day has gone smoothly and turned out really well.”

Friday morning and afternoon saw five age groups take to the stage to impress the panel of judges with their musicality and artistry. The groups included ‘65 and over fiddle’, ‘50 and over step dance’, ‘19 to 44 fiddle’, ‘19 to 49 step dancing’ and ‘45 to 64 fiddle’.

The fiddlers were judged by newcomer Shane Cook of Dorchester, Ont., longtime adjudicator Brian Hebert of Pembroke and Calvin Vollrath of St. Paul, Alberta.

The step dancing panel included returning judges Chad Wolfe of Ottawa, Tiffany Fewster-Salt of Woodstock, Ont. and Pembroke's Rhodina Turner.

While Cook had been a competitor at the fiddle contest throughout his youth and up until he as 24 years old, this was his first time returning to the contest in 10 years and his first time serving as a judge.

Cook expressed that he was honoured to be a part of the contest and to be able to reunite with many old fiddling friends.

“It’s great to be back here, see old friends, relive old memories and enjoy great fiddling music. This is the first time I've had a front row seat like this as a judge and it’s been a smooth start so far with lots of great fiddlers from across Canada and the U.S.,” said Cook. “I’m especially looking forward to seeing the younger kids play tomorrow morning.”

Fiddle judge Brian Hebert, who has taught generations of up-and-coming fiddlers and has lent his adjudication talents to the competition for many years now, expressed that the main goal of the contest is to celebrate Canadian step dancing and fiddle music.

“What I’m impressed by is everyone's approach when they come onstage – they take the word ‘competition’ right out of it,” said Hebert. “This is nothing more than an excuse for us all to be together and enjoy Canadian fiddle music. It doesn’t matter where people place, how many points they get or what trophy they win – they just come and share what they’ve been working on and that's what it's all about. The competition has to happen so we can all be here, but other than that, it's just a celebration of Canadian fiddle music – that’s all it is.”

Results from the Friday morning and afternoon playdowns:

Fiddling – 65 and over:

1st place: Maurice Billette of St. Barbe, Quebec

2nd place: Bruce Armitage of Quyon, Quebec

3rd place: Leo Ready of Pembroke, Ontario

4th place: Dennis Alexander of Aylmer, Quebec

Step dancing – 50 and over:

1st place: Susan Guzzo of Kanata, Ontario

2nd place: Callista Kelly of Osgoode, Ontario

3rd place: Lynn Toplitsky of Lefroy, Ontario

Fiddling – 19 to 44:

1st place: Courtney Drew of Cookshire-Eaton, Quebec

2nd place: Megan Lavigueur of Eganville, Ontario

3rd place: Dan Stacey of Stratford, Ontario

4th place: Kyle Felhaver of Braeside, Ontario

Step dancing – 19 to 49:

1st place: Dan Stacey of Stratford, Ontario

2nd place: Emily Yarascavitch of Oshawa, Ontario

3rd place: Gabrielle Malis of Gatineau, Quebec

Fiddling – 45 to 64:

1st place: Ian Hamilton of Cobden, Ontario

2nd place: Steve Jacob of Equinunk, Pennsylvania

3rd place: Charlie Walden of Evanston, Illinois

4th place: Cassandra Swan of St. Catharines, Ontario

5th place: Bill Smith of Duneville, Ontario 

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