Jul 12, 2013
09:43 AM
Arts & Entertainment

No Bumpkin About It: Bluegrass Sophistication in Roxbury's Pickin' 'n Fiddlin' Contest

No Bumpkin About It: Bluegrass Sophistication in Roxbury's Pickin' 'n Fiddlin' Contest

Litchfield County Times file photo

Robert Clements, then 11, of Meriden performing in 2011.

The Roxbury Volunteer Fire Department will present its 39th annual Pickin’ & Fiddlin’ Contest Saturday, July 13, beginning at 2 p.m.

Right, we know what you’re thinking: A volunteer fire department in a sleepy town in the back of nowhere in the hills of Litchfield County holding a “contest” for pickin’, and for fiddlin’—well, that adds up to the kind of country bumpkin event that might interest some locals but isn’t something that’s worth a drive. Right?

Wrong.

While Roxbury is small—population just a bit north of 2,000—quiet and very rural, it has also long been a sophisticated haven for New York weekenders and ex-urbanites, and famously the place where playwright Arthur Miller lived for a time with Marilyn Monroe, Alexander Calder created iconic sculptures and Frank McCourt basked in the afterglow of “Angela’s Ashes.” Miller’s daughter Rebecca, the writer and filmmaker, and her Oscar-blessed husband Daniel Day-Lewis spend time in town, Dustin Hoffman has a house there, comedian and actor Denis Leary is a resident,  Stephen Sondheim has property—and the list goes on.

So when the fire department holds its popular annual fundraiser on the grounds of a local park, there’s barely any bumpkin about it—just a long roster of talented musicians of all ages competing in a number of traditional categories, with performances by talented full bands interspersed between the individual efforts.

The bluegrass and country music performed is quite good, the setting is sylvan, the company is genial, the food offered on site is folksy (think dogs and burgers)—most people bring picnics, some of them quite fancy—and the experience is one folks cherish enough that they return year after year.

The fire department launched the summertime staple in 1974 in conjunction with its annual Old Roxbury Days, according to a release explaining the history, sponsoring a contest to display the skills of musicians playing country and bluegrass. Over the years and decades, the contest has grown tremendously and is now the biggest of its kind in the northwest hills of Connecticut.

This year’s event will be held at Hurlburt Park, located at 18 Apple Lane. It begins at 2 p.m. and stretches harmoniously into the evening. Admission is $10. Children under 10 are admitted free. Free parking is also available. Contestant registration for participants starts at 1:30 p.m. The rain date for the event is Sunday, July 14, at noon.

Musical categories in the competition are Old Time Fiddle, Old Time Banjo, Mandolin, Trick and Fancy Fiddle, Finger Picking and Flat Picking Guitar, Bluegrass Banjo and Band Playoff.

Prizes total more than $3,200, with the prize money donated by the Union Savings Bank.

Guests are advised to bring lawn chairs, blankets, picnic and beverages. Food, refreshments and crafts will also be available for purchase. No dogs will be admitted to the grounds.

For more information, contact Mike Josefson 860-354-5921, or via e-mail at mikejosefson@gmail.com or visit the town’s Web site at www.roxburyct.com.

 

No Bumpkin About It: Bluegrass Sophistication in Roxbury's Pickin' 'n Fiddlin' Contest

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