TEBBETTS, Mo. -- A group of 18 fiddlers — young, old and everything inbetween — gathered at the annual Tebbetts' Community Picnic to entertain a crowd and play to see who would be named best in the Polly Burre Memorial Old Time Fiddler's Contest.
The contest capped off the three-day community picnic, nicknamed Muttonfest for it's famous main food, with foot-tapping tunes like "Nectar of the Ozarks," "Tennessee Rag" and "14 Days in Georgia" — with a few waltzes thrown in, as well.
The number of fiddlers was a turn-around from last year's contest, which had only five contestants, and had been moved to Sunday to try and draw more in.
"I think it was a wonderful turnout," contest organizer Robert Mackey said. "When you can have that many contestants show up to such a small town picnic like this, it's a wonderful turnout."
The increased number included seven contestants in the youth division.
"We're trying to grow the youth division as we continue this on because not only does it get more youth to participate in such an old tradition, but it also brings in the revenue for the community," Mackey said.
Ethan Schindler took the top spot in the youth division, with other placings being Tanner Marriot, second; Jayna Kissock, third; and Kayla Byerley, fourth. Other youth fiddlers included Sophia Schindler, Marta Cunningham and Preston Marriot.
The senior division winner was Richard Harness, followed by Kenny Applebee, second; Lynn Wells, third; and Mary Corterman, fourth. Other senior fiddlers were Greg Krone, Linda Kronk and Trice Pisetta.
John Williams was declared the winner of the open division, and other placings were Junior Marriot, second; Aaron Albrecht, third; and Sophia Cunningham; fourth.
The contest was almost nonexistent this year without an organizer to put it together, but Mackey, who comes from a family of musicians and can play several string instruments, said he didn't want to see the tradition end.
"I like to see things continue on — I hate to see old traditions die young," Mackey said. "This is one of the oldest fiddle contest, not the oldest, but it's one of the oldest contests still going in Missouri."
As the last fiddlers played and the contest came to a close, residents of Tebbetts went to work on packing up the pieces of its annual tradition. Sam Richards, a Tebbetts resident who helped organize the picnic, said the turnout wasn't quite as high as last year's exceptional attendance, but still solid.
"The little pedal tractor pull was a hit, we had about 18 kids, probably," Richards said. "Turtle races are definitely a hit every year. We had a good turnout of classic cars, antique tractors. And our bands this year, they were just better than ever."
Richards said the money raised by the event will be enough to keep the Tebbetts Community Center open and to continue the community dinners held on the first Friday of every month. The leftovers of the picnic — mutton included — will be part of next month's community dinner, Richards added, as well as other food made by Tebbetts residents. The dinners are open to anyone and is as much as you can eat for $10.
Tebbetts by itself only has about 5o residents, Tebbets Historical Society member Larry Languell said, but the recent addition of a nearby subdivision has brought some new faces, and mouths, to the community.
Languell said much has changed since the picnic first started in 1948 next to the Tebbetts' school building, which is now an apartment building. He and his wife worked the soda booth for the picnic as teenagers and the mutton was cut in the town and pulled by old men in a small booth outside.
"One thing that I love most about the picnic is meeting people that were around here from far off now and they come in for the picnic and they visit — I just love seeing them again, you know, from all over the United States," Languell said.