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Winfield's Walnut Valley Festival National Championship Winners Announced

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Walnut Valley FestivalWinfield, KS -- The 2011 Walnut Valley National Championships have been running for the past few days and we have results from those competitions. The Walnut Valley Festival sponsors eight instrumental contests. Several "big name" artists today (Mark O'Connor, Alison Krauss, Chris Thile, Peter Ostroushko, to name a few) can point to being a "Winfield winner" in their earlier years. The contests are well-attended since most contestants bring their contingent of fans and there are others who simply want to be able to say, ten years from now, "I remember back when he won Winfield."

The winners of each category and the news surrounding them is below. The categories again included Autoharp, Mountain Dulcimer, Finger Style Guitar, Mandolin, Old-Time Fiddle, Hammer Dulcimer, Flat-Pick Guitar and the Bluegrass Banjo. The National Championships include Mountain Dulcimer, Mandolin, Hammer Dulcimer, Flat-Pick Guitar and the Bluegrass Banjo. International championships are only for Autoharp and Finger-Style Guitar.

2011 International Autoharp Championships

The International Autoharp contest at the Walnut Valley Festival included seven contestants who played and they hailed from six different states (TX, KS, CA, CO, MO, & OK). Since there were only seven contestants the second round of competition was eliminated and the four who didn't make the top three places were awarded plaques for participation.

When the final three were announced, first place was awarded to Ray Choi from Garden Grove, CA. Ray had played seventh in the Mt. Laurel contest and he won that competition and when he drew where he would play here at the WVF contest he drew the number 7 again. When He won the competition and drew for his WVF Belt Buckle, guess what number he drew. You guessed it, it was No. 7. Last year he placed third in this competition. He is a music store owner as well as a luthier. He has made 489 autoharps since 1995. Ray says he spends as much as 100 hours building an autoharp and he hopes to improve on each one he builds. Not only can he play the autoharp but he can also sing and yodel. This is the third time he has been to the Festival. He is a music store owner and also gives lessons on the autoharp to mainly older people. Ray has been playing this instrument for some 20 years but plays many other instruments such as the guitar and flute. Music is his life so it's no surprise that playing music is the hobby he enjoys most. Ray takes back to California the 1st Place trophy, $175 in cash and a d'Aigle Cascade 21 Chord Chromatic Autoharp by Pete Daigle of Seatac, WA.

Second place went to a person who is making this his seventh time to enter this contest. Mickey Brashaer (aka Michael Stanwood) makes his home in Lafayette, CO. Mickey is a musician and teacher by trade but is also writer and singer. In the Colorado area he is also known as a children's performer and songwriter. In addition to the autoharp he also plays the guitar, didgeridoo and many other instruments. He has been playing the autoharp for some thirty years and it all started when an individual by the name of Steve Weincrot was talking with him and turned him on to the instrument. Besides being a musician, Milton has also been and actor. He was a contract player to Universal Studios in the 1960s and 70s. He was in such TV shows as "Mannix," "Run For Your Life," and "Night Gallery." His hobbies include attending baseball games, photography and of course, all kinds of music. Mickey won the 2nd Place Trophy, $125 in cash and an Evoharp 21W autoharp by The Dulcimer Shoppe/McSpadden of Mountain View, AR.

Third place was awarded to someone who is no stranger to this competition. Tina Louise Barr of Modesto, CA is a long-time competitor in this contest and placed 2nd in 1993 and 1996, 3rd in 1998, 2nd again in 2007 and 2008. In 2010 she made the top five. Tina has been coming to Winfield and the Festival since 1985 and says that the variety of music that is featured she appreciates. In addition to the autoharp she also plays the guitar and electric bass. Her favorite thing to do at festivals is jam with fellow autoharp players. She teaches the autoharp, has recorded several CDs and has played with the likes of Michael Martin Murphey and The Black Irish Band. For her efforts she takes back to CA the 3rs Plate Trophy, $75 in cash and an Oscar Schmidt OS45CE Autoharp by Oscar Schmidt/Washburn International of Mundelein, IL.

The remaining awards for the 2011 competition are:

2011 National Mountain Dulcimer Championships

1st Place Winner: Bradley Ellis from Grover, NC. The Prize Instrument Selected: a 4FHKK Custom Dulcimer by The Dulcimer Shoppe/McSpadden Mountain Dulcimers of Mountain View, Arkansas.

2nd Place Winner: Evan McClanahan from Houston, TX. Evan's Prize Instrument Selected: a 6FHCRB Dulcimer also by The Dulcimer Shoppe/McSpadden Mountain Dulcimers of Mountain View, Arkansas.

3rd Place Winner: Nathaniel Samsel from Clarksville, GA received the Prize Instrument Selected of a 4FGCS Dulcimer by The Dulcimer Shoppe/McSpadden Mountain Dulcimers of Mountain View, Arkansas.

2011 International Finger Style Guitar Championships

1st Place Winner: Kevin Horrigan of Brookfield, WI who received the Taylor 12-Fret Special Guitar by Taylor Guitars of El Cajon, CA

2nd Place Winner: Tomoaki Kawabata from Tsutsui-Cho, Japan won the Triggs Flattop Acoustic Guitar by Jim & Ryan Triggs of Lawrence, KS

3rd Place Winner: Keith Taylor of Salt lake City, UT won the Larrivee 000-60 Custom Guitar by Jean Larrivee Guitars of Oxnard, CA

2011 National Mandolin Championships

1st Place Winner: Solly Burton of Sullivan, IN won a Collings MF-Custom Mandolin by Collings Guitars of Austin, TX

2nd Place Winner: Peter Danzig from Salt Lake City, UT was awarded a Weber "F" Style Black Ice Model mandolin by Weber Fine Acoustic Instruments of Manhattan, MT

3rd Place Winner: Andrew Hatfield from Peoria, IL took home a Larrivee F-33 mandolin by Jean Larrivee Guitars of Oxnard, CA

2011 Walnut Valley Old Time Fiddle Championships

1st Place Winner: John Shaw from Lincoln, NE selected the The John Juzek, Model 172 Master Art Fiddle provided by Keller Strings of Lawrence, KS

2nd Place Winner: Emma Jane Pendleton of Tulsa, OK was awarded a Simon Nandor Master Luthier Fiddle provided by Keller Strings of Lawrence, KS

3rd Place Winner: Roger Netherton from St. Louis, MO won a Heinrich Gill Fiddle also provided by Keller Strings of Lawrence, KS

2011 National Hammer Dulcimer Championships

1st Place Winner: Tim Simek of Seymour, TN selected a Custom Engraved Master Works Russell Cook Edition 16/16c Hammer Dulcimer by Master Works of Bennington, OK

2nd Place Winner: Karen Alley from State College, PA took home the Huddleson Josh Messick UL400C Chromatic Hammer Dulcimer by Mike Huddleson Stringed Instruments of Wichita, KS

3rd Place Winner: Sam Wachtler from Colorado Springs, CO was awarded a Cloud Nine-Model 17/16/8 Hammer Dulcimer by Cloud Nine Musical Instruments of Ostrander, OH

2011 National Flat Pick Guitar Championships

1st Place Winner: Andrew Hatfield from Peoria, IL won the prized Gallagher Walnut Valley Commemorative Guitar by J.W. Gallagher & Son of Wartrace, TN

2nd Place Winner: Roy Curry of Hixon, TN was awarded the Collins Winfield Model Mahogany/Adirondack Spruce Guitar by Collings Guitars of Austin, TX

3rd Place Winner: Allen Shadd from Lake Wylie, SC took home the Martin D-42 Walnut Valley 40th Anniversary Guitar by C.F. Martin & Company of Nazareth, PA

2011 National Bluegrass Banjo Championships

1st Place Winner: Weston Stewart from Anderson, AL wone the OME Southern Cross HG50 Banjo by OME Banjos of Boulder, CO

2nd Place Winner: Jake Workman from Draper, UT was awarded the Deering Eagle II Banjo by Deering Banjo Co. of Spring Valley, CA

3rd Place Winner: Paul Brown of Chillicothe, OH won the Deering Sierra Maple Banjo by Deering Banjo Co. of Spring Valley, CA

Walnut Valley Festival at 40

Winfield, KS...Back in the early 1970's the world was a different place than what we know today. A lot of events that would change the way of life as we knew it would come about in the early 70's: the first earth day was on April 22, 1970, the World Trade Center construction was completed, the floppy disc was invented, eighteen year olds were given the right to vote, the Beatles released "Let it Be", their last album, and Apollo 13 became a focal point as the world held its collective breath praying for a miracle. A more subtle event happened when several businessmen got together for the purpose of planning a music festival to be held in the fall at the Winfield Fairgrounds, the Walnut Valley Festival. It was to be a three day music event and the host of the newly formed National Flat-picking Guitar Championship.

Forty years later, the floppy disc has become a museum relic, the Beatles are members of the rock and roll hall of fame, the astronauts of Apollo 13 made it home safe and sound, and the World Trade Center buildings have become an icon of our country's history. The little upstart 3 day Walnut Valley Festival has survived and thrived, officially it is now a 5 day event with four days of music on 4 stages and a day of hands-on music workshops. The National Flat-picking Guitar Championships has been joined by 7 other championship contests. In 1972 about 2592 people showed up with guitars and sleeping bags in hand to jam and enjoy the music of Dan Crary, New Grass Revival, Doc and Merle Watson and a handful of other legendary bluegrass musicians. These days the Walnut Valley Festival averages between 13,000 and 15,000 music lovers that show up days before the "Official" festival opening date, bringing with them guitars, banjos, mandolins and numerous other instruments to play music in the campgrounds that are alive with music nearly around the clock.

This year in honor of 40 years of music, festival organizers have selected a theme stating - 40 Years, The Circle's Still Unbroken. The theme is simple and to the point. However, anyone that has not been one of the loyal attendees through the years may not realize the full meaning. The Circle's Still Unbroken is a modest way of recognizing that the festival and the music it celebrates has been continuous through 40 years. 40 years sunshine, heavy rains, wind storms, near freezing and over boiling temperatures, a river that surrounds about 3 sides of the festival that has on more than one occasion risen up to dampen the spirits of the faithful, once even driving them from their temporary homes away from home to offsite camping, the tragic accidents that took the lives of two of the festival family; and none that were alive in 2001 will ever forget the surreal feeling in the campgrounds when our country was attacked on September 11, 2001.

In the 40 years of putting together a festival, over 450 different acts have been invited to entertain on the Walnut Valley Festival Stages. As part of the 40th celebration, organizers decided it would be fun to reach back and make contact with artists that had been well received at previous festivals. Unfortunately some of the early festival artists are no longer traveling as much, some are having health concerns that keep them off the stage, and others have reached a status that they are unfortunately out of the budget the festival must work within. But the good news is there are still plenty that were excited to join their fans on the third weekend in September again. Two returning performers that can claim longevity rights, having performed at the very first Walnut Valley Festival are flatpicking legend, Dan Crary and renowned fiddler Byron Berline who was at the festival as a member of the band "Country Gazette". An interesting note of trivia is that this year's hired artists have a combined total of 411 years of Walnut Valley Festival experience that brought with them when they returned for this year's festival.

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