Twin Lakes National Fiddler Championship: ‘by fiddlers, for fiddlers’

By Ed Carnes - Contest Director

The fourth annual Twin Lakes National Fiddler Championship was held on Saturday, July 18 in Leitchfield, KY.

One of the newer of the National Old Time Fiddling Association (NOTFA) Certified contests, the Twin Lakes Championship had over 73 fiddlers competing in six divisions, along with 51 other competitors in guitar, banjo, mandolin, No-Holds barred Buck Dancing and Bluegrass Bands and awarded over $10,005 in prize money. Winners of the Small Fry, Junior-Junior, Junior, Young Adult, Adult and Senior categories received a NOTFA certification for the 2016 U. S. Grand National Championship in Weiser, ID. Additionally, the overall Grand Champion, Megan Lynch-Chowning, received an automatic invitation to compete as a Finalist in the 2015 Grand Master Fiddler Championship held at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, TN, on Saturday, Sept. 27 and 28. Judges for the event were Luke Price, Bill Jones, and Bobby Taylor, all NOTFA Qualified judges.

Leitchfield and Grayson County KY have been a hotbed of fiddling and music for many years. The hometown of NOTFA members Doug Fleener, Mark Ralph, and Ed Carnes, many other competitive fiddlers, including Erik Payton, Adam French, Joseph Alexander, Shawn Whitely, and Jimmy Mattingly, have also came from this small Kentucky town. The competition recognized some of the local fiddlers from the past that have represented the community such as Herman Alvey, Bud Meredith, and Lonnie Peerce and gave out awards in their names (Bud and Lonnie made many trips to Weiser over the years). Local organizers of the original KY State Fiddler Championship Jodie Hall and Leo Mudd were also honored with awards presented in their names.

The Twin Lakes National Fiddler Championship is held in conjunction with the Leitchfield Freedom and Fiddling Festival, which features the Twin Lakes Fiddle Queen Pageant, a car show, vendor booths, and activities on the courthouse square for the entire family. For contest entertainment, there was also a Square Dance show and demonstration by the 12-time Tennessee State Champion Square Dance Team the “Rocky Top Revue” from Franklin, TN. The contest ended by featuring local band “The Jack Thomas Band” playing country and rock and roll tunes for a street dance, as well as a lot of post-contest jamming by the judges and contestants.

It is estimated that over 2,800 people attended the contest with the average crowd size of 500 to 600 people. There was no registration fee or admission charged at the contest; all funds were raised through local donations and proceeds from the Fiddle Festival Queen beauty pageant held the previous night. One of the high points of the day was a special performance by three of the founding students of the local orchestra program who became competitors in fiddle contests all over the U.S. and Canada—Ed Carnes, Erik Payton, and Jimmy Mattingly, the long-time fiddle player for Garth Brooks.

The event organizers said the enthusiasm of the community and turnout were great, and the competition will be an annual event for each third weekend in July.

Each year the competition grows, adding more prize money and places.

“I would like to thank Cindy and the folks at NOTFA for helping us maintain our certification,” said Contest Director Ed Carnes. I believe NOTFA recognition is a great help in getting out word and making this event unique in this area of the U.S. We plan to expand the event, and we want a reputation for being a fun and fair contest, with world-class judges, and for being a contest designed by fiddlers, for fiddlers.”

Mark your calendars for the next year’s event on July 16, 2016 and watch the website at or like the contest on Facebook at and come join the fun on the courthouse square in Leitchfield, KY next year.

By Ed Carnes

Contest Director

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