top of page

Fiddles On Wheels

Mary Ensign became the guardian of the Athens Old Fiddlers Reunion in 1971. For 50 years, she single-handedly carried on this tradition. 


In 2021 Mary officially retired and passed the torch to the Athens Old Fiddler Reunion committee consisting of Traci and Jackie Wilkes, founders of East Texas Independent Business Alliance and owners of Reigning Jewels, and non-profit organization 'Fiddles on Wheels' founders Sherry McKenzie and Cindy Roberts. 


They are proud to be the next caretakers of this precious gem. Here's to the next 92 years!

Texas has long been known for its fiddlers and musicians. Every barn raising, field harvest or corn husking was followed by a dance. It seems that Texans have always looked for any reason to celebrate with music and friends. 


In 1932, the little community of Bethel, just 6 miles north of Athens, was looking for an opportunity to showcase their crops. The local farmers planned a county-wide contest to find the best fiddle players around but couldn't find enough musicians. They decided to advertise in the Dallas newspaper to advertise their upcoming fiddle contest, and as incentive, the farmers pooled their money together to offer $47.50 in prize money. 


Despite pouring rain that weekend, 900 people showed up for the first Fiddler's Contest to hear fourteen fiddlers try their hand at winning a piece of the prize money. When the contest was over, the crowd was asked if this should be made into a yearly contest. The response was so enthusiastic they made plans for the next year and moved to Athens High School to have more room for the crowds. The following year, in 1934 they moved to the Henderson County courthouse lawn and that turned out to be a wise decision. Attendance quickly doubled and in only ten short years, the Fiddlers Contest was drawing in over 50,000 people. Today, Athens Old Fiddlers is the longest running fiddle contest in Texas and the second oldest, continuously-running fiddle contest in the country.  


Hosting fiddlers and fans from all over the United States, the Athens Courthouse square still turns into one big fiddle party the third weekend in April.  Over $7k in prizes, street dances, food vendors, carnival, car show, corn hole and Texas 42 domino tournament & more! As always, Old Fiddlers is a FREE event. It's truly a magical time.



bottom of page