Debbie Croft: Historic town of Columbia plays host to fiddles, banjos, more

10/03/2013 12:00 AM

10/04/2013 8:36 PM

At the gazebo in downtown Columbia this Saturday, visitors to the historic town will enjoy the 31st annual Fiddle and Bango Contest. (The word “banjo” was accidentally misspelled the first year of the competition, and the tradition has been continued ever since.)

This year’s contest is dedicated to Ron DeLacy, a musician, journalist and well-loved, longtime Columbia resident. As a fellow musician and participant in this event, commemorative T-shirts with his likeness will be available for purchase.

The contest is held for amateur and professional musicians on acoustic instruments only. Contestants may enter in the following categories: fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, miscellaneous and vocal. Musicians will be judged on technique, pitch, rhythm and musicianship. Cash prizes will be awarded, including a gold nugget to the grand-prize winner. An entry fee of $12 is required when registering between 9 and 10:30 a.m. that morning.

The competition will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This event is free. Remember to bring sunscreen and a blanket or lawn chair for seating.

In addition to the music competition, the famous Chili Cook-Off starts at noon the same day. Local restaurants, organizations and individuals are invited to participate, but space is limited.

The entry fee for contestants is $20 each, and tasting tickets are $5 each. Tickets will go on sale at 10:30 a.m.

Both events are sponsored by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. For details, call (209) 536-1672 or (209) 536-1329.

The Jazz Artist Series with Columbia College presents its season opener this weekend. The Saturday concert will be at 7:30 p.m., and the Sunday matinee is at 2:30 p.m. Both performances will take place in the College Dogwood Theater on campus.

Guest vocalist Elaine Gibbs and guest saxophonist Paul Contos will perform.

Gibbs is a recent “X-Factor” finalist, having “a voice to be reckoned with” according to Billboard Magazine. As the young lead singer with the R&B group Side Effect, in 1995 she released her first album. Gibbs has worked with music greats such as the late Rev. James Cleveland, The Gap Band, Cherrelle, Bobby Womack and Shirley Caesar.

In 2009, Contos performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City. His abilities in musical arrangement, production, composition, performance and recording have taken him to studios in Hollywood and London. He has also played and recorded with some of the Bay Area’s best-known jazz artists: Ray Drummond, Ray Brown, Kenneth Nash, Madeline Eastman, Mark Levine and Tee Carson. On stage he’s played with Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, the Heath Brothers, Christian McBride, Regina Carter and numerous others.

Contos is no stranger to Columbia or to music education. On the faculty of two California universities, he judges, performs and conducts at high school and college jazz festivals. Since the 1980s, his distinguished involvement with the Monterey Jazz Festival’s Education program includes saxophone clinician and director of the festival’s high school honors band.

Concert tickets are $20 each. Season tickets include VIP seating for the season’s seven concerts and are $90 each. Call (209) 559-0565 for more information and reservations.

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