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Fiddle Jamboree

Convention fills Harrison halls with music

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"We're very informal here as far as musicians and fans are concerned," says Carl J. Wills. But that doesn't mean the annual Arkansas Fiddlers Convention, now in its 34th year in Harrison, can just be thrown together. Wills has been there for the past 27 years, and he's got this unique brand of juggling down to a science.

For one long weekend, which started Thursday, fiddlers from as many as 22 states and as far away as Canada come to the North Arkansas College South Campus to perform. They might play solo shows in the little theater or take part in jam sessions -- as many as 35 of which might run concurrently in classrooms, hallways and outdoors "if the weather's right," Wills says. The event draws as many as 3,000 fans who come to hear the state instrument of Arkansas -- so designated on Feb. 28, 1985, with Act 277 -- play everything from gospel to bluegrass and beyond.

FAQ

Arkansas Fiddlers Convention

WHEN — Through Sunday

WHERE — North Arkansas College South Campus, 1515 Pioneer Drive in Harrison

COST — Admission is free; donations accepted

INFO — 870-741-1789 or harrisonarkansas.org

"I feel like this has worked," Wills says in obvious understatement, but this year has its own challenges. It is the first time the convention has been held in May; it had been a mainstay of spring break on the college campus until now.

Wills isn't worried. He's got special guests -- Wayne Massengale from the Grand Country Resort in Branson, Mo., who was born in Harrison, is playing at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, and "Doc Lee," described by Wills as the town's best doctor and best fiddler, at 2 p.m. the same day -- and he's got his goal clearly stated.

"My ambition is to get people together to have a good time," he says. "I'd rather see them have a good time than me."

-- Becca Martin-Brown

bmartin@nwadg.com

NAN What's Up on 05/19/2017

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