Family moves fiddle contest forward

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, August 13, 2011

Henry Jacobs opens up the fiddle contest at Fair Square Friday at the Mower County Fair. - Eric Johnson/

The Mower County Fair Fiddlers’ Contest was a family affair on Friday.

Three of the four contestants were members of the Lawhead family, with six-year-old Henry Jacobs and his dad, Peter Jacobs, also joining in the fiddling fun with a duet.

Brock Lawhead plays his set during the fiddle contest Friday afternoon at the Mower County Fair. - Eric Johnson/

The contest, headed by Brandon Lawhead, has been running since 1977. According to Lawhead, it’s the longest running fiddle contest in Minnesota.

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“It’s kind of a little niche,” he said. “A lot of people like that kind of music, especially in rural areas.”

Lawhead, who played fiddle with big names like The Who and The Moody Blues while in law school, said he was disappointed when the Fiddlers’ Contest wasn’t on the 2011 Mower County Fair schedule, so he decided to organize it.

“There’s been a lot of musicians who have played at the contest and done very well professionally,” he said. “It’s something that’s been in the community for a very long time, so I called them up and asked if we could continue it.”

Although attendance isn’t what it once was, Lawhead has hopes of expanding the contest. He said he would like to see more divisions and more prize money so it becomes a more well-known, well-attended contest.

The contest has two divisions now — Junior category and Senior category. First prize is usually $25, Lawhead said.

This year’s contest was especially significant for the Lawhead family because Twanda Bickford, Lawhead’s sister, picked up a violin for the first time in 20 years.

Tawanda Bickford plays the fiddle during the fiddle contest Friday afternoon at Fair Squard at the Mower County Fair. - Eric Johnson/

When Lawhead called her to the stage, Bickford addressed the crowd: “Every year (when I was a kid), I would tell my brothers, ‘Nope, I’m not gonna do it! I’m not gonna practice!’ Today I haven’t touched a violin for 20 years … but I’ll give it a whirl.”

Lawhead’s son, 10-year-old Brock Lawhead, placed first in the contest. He has been taking lessons for six years and said he “loves fiddling.”

“The contest is challening,” he said. “You get to play in front of people, which, as a violinist, doesn’t happen very often.

“You can kind of express yourself in music.”

Six-year-old Jacobs, who has been taking lessons for two years, placed second at the contest. His dad, Peter Jacobs, accompanied him on accordion.