• Pamela Froman

56th Annual Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival

It's time to enjoy a day of music at the 56th Annual Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival! Taking place at Paramount Ranch this May 15th from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. the Festival is one of the premiere old time and Bluegrass events in America. There are three stages plus the Dance Barn and children’s area, all set within Western movie sets and mountain locations. So come out and enjoy!

The Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest began in 1961 as a small contest in Topanga Canyon during the folk revival. Numerous stars and musicians have performed at the Festival, including Jackson Browne, David Lindley, Taj Mahal, John Hartford, and Howard Yearwood, among many others. But the best part of the Festival is the jamming. Wherever you are, there are tunes for your listening pleasure. The mix of beginning, intermediate and advanced players, professional players and string bands create an atmosphere that is hard to beat. Attendees to the contest and festival are encouraged to bring instruments and just play. The audience makes the show.

Roland Strum, Talent Coordinator for the Festival is always looking for new, fun activities to make the day special and unique. Everything from bands performing, dance teachers, arts and crafts, workshops, and sing-alongs are in store during this amazing day. There are twelve bands booked to perform including Ragged Union, The Americans, Evie Ladin Band, Squirrel Butter, and Canote Brothers.

“You have professional bands playing and performing, and the atmosphere is brilliant,” Roland says. “It has a feel you won't find anywhere else.” However the professionals are just the beginning – there are all kinds of bands jamming, and you are guaranteed to see some astonishing people.

There are musicians of all ages, with performers as young as 4 years old, and as old as 98! On the Pavilion Stage you can witness Beginning Instrument Competitions, the Ventucky String Band and G Burns Jug Band as well as Mike Mahaney’s Cowboy Music & Poetry. The Railroad Intermediate Stage features Traditional Singing Playoffs, the Intermediate Instrument Competition, The Sweet Potatoes, Squirrel Butter and Ross Altman. Young performers on the Railroad Stage in each category play to get a shot at performing on the Main Stage with the advanced musicians.

The Main Stage offer categories such as Traditional Singing and Advanced Fiddle. Prizes include music merchandise, gift certificates, guitar and violin strings, records and music books, cash and of course trophies. Every year the Legend Award is given out to a musician who has influenced the genre and made a real statement. This year’s Legend Award is being awarded posthumously in honor of Pitt Kinsolving.

Bluegrass music, folk songs and folk dancing make the day full of fun. The Eucalyptus Grove is a craft area for the kids, where they can dance away to the tunes in the air while creating works of art. There will also be organized jams and sing-alongs. Barbeque food keeps everyone fed and content. The Dance Barn is the space to learn to square dance. New events this year include Flatfoot Clog Dance Competition, a solo, percussive folk dance with music provided by a live band and Mountain Dulcimer. It'll be hard to keep a smile off your face as you prance away to the notes in the air.

In addition to all the music, craft booths display weaving, ceramics, metal craft, leather craft, jewelry, needlework, painting, instruments, and straw hats. Environmental and public service booths provide information about our national, state, and local parks, hiking trails, volunteer organizations, environmental groups and native plants.

You'll hear unique instruments such as the ukulele, accordion, keyed fiddle, banjo, and harmonica. There's even the vocal “instrument” of yodeling! So break out your instruments and your listening ears and come out and join the fun! “It's a great day,” says Roland. “There is something or everyone.”

Online ticket prices are $15 for ages 18 - 64, $10 for ages 10-17 or over 65. There is no charge for children under 10. At the gate, tickets $20 for ages 18 - 64 and $15 for ages 10-17 or over 65. For more information on the 56th Annual Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest and Folk Festival log onto

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