Fiddlers Contest draws big crowds at Mokane Fall Fest

Event also known as Mokane World’s Fair

Members of the Mokane Lions Club and others are gearing up for the 64th annual Mokane Fall Festival on Labor Day weekend that some call “Mokane World’s Fair.”

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The annual fiddle contest at the Mokane Fall Festival is named in honor of Jack Hockemeyer.

The annual three-day event on River Street in Mokane during Labor Day weekend begins on Aug. 30 and ends on Sept. 1. It includes a variety of events. Attractions include the barbecued meat dinners along with beer and soda, bingo games, carnival rides, and a softball competition.

Friday evening will feature a demolition derby and a performance by the band Safari.

On Saturday there will be a softball competition and a parade in the morning. A children’s tractor pull and the Mule Kickers dancers will entertain in the afternoon. Missouri Farm Pullers will have tractors and trucks competing in pulling events during the evening along with performances of the Black Water band.

On Sunday, the Flat Foot Follies will entertain in the afternoon and the antique tractor and truck pulling competition will be in the evening. The Coveralls band also will entertain.

One of the long-standing traditions of the annual event is the Jake Hockemeyer Memorial Old Time Fiddlers Contest on Sunday afternoon.

That event at the Mokane Lions Club Park begins at 3 p.m. on Sept. 1. Registration for the competition begins an hour before the event at 2 p.m.

The fiddlers contest is named after the late master fiddler Jake Hockemeyer of Mokane, who died on March 13, 1997, at the age of 77.

Hockemeyer was born in the Callaway County town of Readsville and lived most of his life in Mokane.

Mokane is in a region of Missouri that has produced many old-time fiddlers.

Hockemeyer played his fiddle Little Dixie style and entertained at Missouri dances and fish fries. A left-handed fiddler, Hockemeyer learned to play by ear and entertained audiences with more than 100 tunes.

Before his retirement, Hockemeyer was custodian and a bus driver for the South Callaway School District at Mokane.

Jim Buffington, chairman of the Mokane fiddlers contest, said he knew Hockemeyer well and enjoyed listening to him play.

“He was a real crowd pleaser and he won a lot of contests around the state,” Buffington said.

Buffington said some of the many trophies Hockemeyer won have been donated as trophies to be awarded at this year’s fiddler contest.

Buffington said in the 1950s, Ron Lutz, a Fulton country music radio disk jockey, referred in jest to the annual Mokane Fall Festival as the “Mokane World’s Fair.”

“The moniker stuck. Many people still call the event the Mokane World’s Fair,” Buffington said. “I got a check from a fiddle contest sponsor the other day that noted it was for the Mokane World’s Fair. I guess that makes it official now.”

Buffington said that last year 24 people competed in the fiddlers contest.

“We plan to have about that same number this year,” he said. “I have been attending fiddle contests in the area and at the state fair to recruit fiddlers to our event in Mokane.”

More than $800 in cash prizes will be offered for this year’s contest.

Contest entrants will compete in three categories: Junior Division for competitors 15 and younger, Open Division for players ages 16 to 59, and Senior Division for players 60 and older.

“We will provide cash awards for the top five finishers in each of the three categories,” Buffington said. “We also will pay a $20 appearance fee for all fiddlers who do not place in the money.”

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