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Fiddle Competition to Showcase Skills of Young and Old : Annual event at Oak View Community Center will feature lots of old-fashioned, down-home music.


If you enjoy traditional American folk and country-Western music, the Oak View Community Center is the place to be Sunday for the Eighth Annual Old Time Amateur Fiddle Contest.

Sponsored by District 8 of the California State Old-Time Fiddler's Assn., this year's contest again promises to be lots of fun, with contestants ranging in age from 5 to 90.

Where else could you see little kids take the same stage as master musicians such as 71-year-old Rae Huffman, a former "State Ladies Fiddle Champion," and Marv Johnson, 81, the current "State and National Senior Senior Fiddle Champion"?

"I love it here," said Charl Ann Gastineau, violin teacher and member of the Acousticats, a popular Progressive Blue Grass group. "The Old-Time Fiddlers set a wonderful standard for the children. And they are like second grandparents to them."

Among the first-time contestants will be 10-year-old Amy Donahue of Camarillo, who has been Gastineau's student for about 18 months. "I enjoy playing fiddle because the music is bouncy. And I like to dance too," Amy said.

To get the most out of the day, try to arrive for the children's competition, which ends at noon.

Since 1974, the musicians and fans in District 8, one of 13 in the state, have gathered twice a month to play, sing and dance among a casual country camaraderie of lively acoustic music. An electrified band, complete with pedal steel guitar, is usually set up in an adjoining room for swing enthusiasts. Or you could visit the covered patio to learn a few toe-tapping licks while jamming with other musicians. And under the trees out back you may find some folks playing and enjoying bluegrass music.

Truman Bridges, 68, plays banjo in the club's Old Country Trio Plus One, which makes many public appearances. Awhile back, he told me that most fans of country music play several stringed instruments.

But Joe Hunsinger, the club's president, is content to just play the fiddle. It symbolizes the attainment of a goal he set himself nine years ago when heart disease was diagnosed. Since becoming a heart transplant recipient nearly two years ago, the 56-year-old corporate vice president has mastered the fiddle and won a dance contest with his wife, Luana.

Hunsinger stressed the importance of the fiddle in perpetuating the musical tradition of reels, jigs and ballads brought from the British Isles. "But you will also hear mainstream country tunes by Hank Williams Sr. and Bob Wills at the meetings. And also a favorite of the children called 'Bile Them Cabbages Down,' " he added.

The Old-Time Fiddlers also play a lot of current country hits. And seniors Chuck and Ruth Sitton have started teaching line dances.

"The main thing is to preserve and perpetuate old-time music," said founding member Ben Chapman. So the association's rules require a fiddle player be included in any group taking the stage. But he said a majority of District 8's 400 members don't even play an instrument. "We call them 'enthusiasts,' " said Chapman with a smile. "They come to listen and dance."


K-Hay listeners, have you been listening for Bob Allen's night-time request and dedication show, Santa Fe Cafe, without success? That's because since Tuesday Allen has taken over the early week-day afternoon drive-time slot at KKUR 105.5 FM, Ventura County's new country radio station. Late Monday evening, the Ventura-based station dropped its "adult contemporary" format.

"We're changing to what has been known as 'Hot Country.' But we're calling it 'Thunder Country,' " said spokeswoman Lisa Sutherland. "We're going to play the hottest, newest, high-energy country music of today, 24 hours a day."

A second country radio station in our area comes as no surprise. Country music is the fastest-growing music format in America. It has more than doubled its audience in the past five years. But, of course, most of your folks were "country before country was cool."


Popular deejay-instructor Rick Henderson must be a clone. Last week he inaugurated country night on Thursdays at Duke's Place, located on the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Port Hueneme. From 6:30 to 8 p.m. he will be teaching intermediate/advanced couples dances and from 8 to 8:45 p.m. line dance lessons. Then he will spin tunes for open dancing until 11:30 p.m. If you have a base pass, enter through the Sunkist Gate off Ventura Road. Guests can easily obtain a "One Night Activities Pass" at the Pleasant Valley Gate. For details, call Duke's Place, 982-2872.


* WHAT: California State Old-Time Fiddler's Assn. Eighth Annual Amateur Fiddle Contest.

* WHERE: Oak View Community Center, 18 Valley Road, Oak View, 486-8744.

* WHEN: Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

* FYI: The public is invited to this free, family oriented event. The group normally meets 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Sundays of every month except December; annual membership includes a monthly newsletter; $12, couple, $10 individual, $2 for members age 18 and under.

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