The 2019 Fiddle Fest

The fiddle fest is the combination of the activities that occur on the weekend of the Annual Fiddle Contest.

The Saturday Band Performances

Typically the doors of the EPC open at 5:00 pm for the jam, which generally continues until the band performance(s) start at 7:30 pm in the auditorium.  A food truck may be available outside for a quick sandwich and drink.

For the last several years we’ve had bands present shows during the evening, the proceeds from which are used to support the Fiddle Contest on the following Sunday.  Lately we’ve favored bands that have include one or more fiddlers and hopefully a band composed of younger folks.

Note: the photos we present here are from a collection of all the pictures provided by the official EPC photographer, Gary Stanfield.  The resolution is excellent.

The 2019 Lineup was composed of three bands, “Hand Picked,” from around west Central Illinois, “Motherlode” from the Charleston, IL area and the well known group centered in Effingham, “Firebox.”   Check out the band biographies and the photos shown below.

Hand Picked

HAND PICKED kicked off Fiddle Fest 2019  at 7 pm on Sat. Oct. 26 at the Effingham Performance Center.  The band includes Calili Perstrope (bass), Jake Morgan (Banjo), Emily Cuasey (Mandolin and Vocals), Audrey Neel (Fiddle and Vocals), and Rosemary Hall (Guitar and Vocals).

Hand Picked, a high energy Youth Band, plays traditional but also put their own touch on bluegrass music.  “Handpicked” by their instructor, Chris Talley (owner of Bluegrass Shack, New Athens, IL), they were selected to compete in the 2017 and 2018 Youth in Bluegrass Contest in Silver Dollar City, Branson, MO.  Rosemary Hall was also the 5th place winner of the Open Division of the 2019 Fiddle Contest.  Emily was also a contestant in the Junior Division of the Fiddle contest.  So both, and probably the rest of the group, are “multi-instrumentalists!”

This group is composed of students of Chris Talley of New Athens hereo she owns and operates a well stocked music store called “The Bluegrass Shack.”  She selects students “who have well developed skills on one or more instruments and have practiced playing as a group”  that are available for any particular play date.



Motherlode took to the stage at 8 pm. The trio has been together for thirty years, with Althea Pendergast on bass fiddle and lead vocals, Wendy Meyer on guitar and vocals, and Gaye Harrison on fiddle and mandolin.

In 2010, they were named Citizens of the Year by the Charleston Chamber of Commerce, in recognition for their support of non-profit organizations and dedication to providing music as a form of community harmony.  According to Carl Lebovits of the Mattoon Journal-Gazette: “Motherlode sings and plays just about everything under the sun, including old time, folk, country, blues, pop and rock.  You name it, they do it, always with grace, style and elan.  Pendergast does most of the lead vocals, and she can belt it out or, if need be, soar like an angel.  Meyer has a deep rich voice, which she uses to advantage.  Harrison slides back and forth with ease between fiddle and mandolin.  They enjoy working together and get carried away by their music.  The results; a toe-tapping, hand-clapping, exhilarating evening that has the joint jumpin’ with joy.”  Gaye Harrison was involved in the acquisition of the “Dear Old Illinois” collection of traditional fiddle tunes of Southern Illinois from the very start.  That program provided a number of tunes for the related  collection of old time fiddles tunes documented in the archives of the Smithsonian Museum.  She has participated in many festivals and related activities of old time fiddle tunes.

Motherlode of Charleston, IL


FIREBOX filled out the evening starting at 9 pm.  The members of Firebox include Nick Poe, Tyson Tolliver, Bill Sanguinetti, and Doug McDevitt on fiddle.   Caleb Gerber on mandolin was unable to make this performance.Another member, Caleb Gerber, mandolin,  was unfortunately out of town on business during the time of the Fiddle Fest

Founded in 2008, Firebox specializes in the traditional bluegrass sound, styled after the bands of the late 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s. Based out of Central Illinois, Firebox is currently performing in the local and regional area to introduce bluegrass to a new generation and preserve this sound that is slowly being lost to more modern genres.
The band members pride themselves in the professional attitude they take towards the music and their performance, wearing suits and ties just as they would have done in Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys.  Each show has a variety of songs to showcase each member’s talents including three and four part harmonies.

For a video performance see: and

The Bluegrass Band; “Firebox”

What’s In Store?   Remove

We are experimenting and “learning the ropes,” attempting to create an even more successful set of Saturday activities.  We  have varied the number of bands and for the 2020 program we are we limiting the number of bands even more by focusing on one band with a following in the mid west and other states, which still has a focus on fiddling.  I can say that while the plan may still be in the planning stage, that band will be The Dennis Stroughmatt  & The Honky-Tonk Circus.   They do a variety of shows including western swing, country, French Creole, Cajun  and tributes to several famous country singers.  For more information see  His show on Fiddle Fest 2020, October 24, will be one that fits into the general interests of old time fiddling.  Mark that date on your calendar!

The Sunday Annual Fiddle Contest

This part of the Fiddle Fest starts at 1:00 pm and usually is concluded by about 5 pm.    Contestants arrive after 10:00 am and spend the morning getting registered, finding their way around and some last minute rehearsing of tunes.  More contest results and information are provided in the following pages.