Monday, April 14, 2008

The Argus Observes --- Weiser lights up with fiddle and square dance festival

By Don Lynch
From the April 20, 1953 issue of The Argus-Observer

Weiser had the crowd literally “hanging from the rafters” for its annual square dance festival Saturday night.

The Weiser high school gym was packed so tightly you couldn’t have wedged in another person. There must have been more than 2,500 spectators and dancers.

The big attraction was the Northwest Mountain Fiddlers Contest. It was added to the dance festival as a crowd attraction and the winner was a sufficiently colorful character to warm the heart of the most hardened chamber of commerce promoter.

He was 84-year-old Millard “Dad” Roberts of Grangeville. He had a full, flowing beard that made him look like Noah just coming out of the ark.

He got up, tucked his fiddle under his beard, drew three or four precarious screeches out of his violin and then lit into “Redwing” as pretty as you please. He followed with “Golden Stairs” and the crowd loved it.

But that wasn’t all the show. There were many other entertaining fiddlers, good specialty acts, and the dancing pleased both dancers and spectators.

The dance floor was just as crowded as the galleries. You had to dance closely within your square or the first thing you knew you’d be swinging a “gal” from another square.

A Life magazine photographer provided the most interest for me of anything in the evening. He used film like it was paper. The reports said he took 700 pictures and he certainly looked it.

Sometimes I think we look silly getting into awkward positions to shoot news pictures, but we aren’t in a league with that guy. He stood on the piano and twisted into strange contortions. H shot from the balcony and from the floor.

He must have taken some excellent pictures in so many exposures. Of course the magazine may not use the pictures. It can use only a relatively small portion of the stories it covers.

If the pictures do run they will doubtless appear in the “Life Goes to A Party” section in the back of each issue. It’s something for readers in this region to watch for and enjoy if it does run.

Ontario has its annual square dance festival sponsored by the Kiwanis club schedule for a May date about a month away.

We can hardly hope to compete with the Weiser dance which has come to be the top event of its kind in the valley. And we’d have a time handling such a large crowd if we did.

But we’ll have a good dance. With the acceptance given the Weiser dance, we may have a larger crowd this year than in either of the two previous years. It will be an entertaining show. Better plan now to attend either as a dance or a spectator.

(Editor’s note: Fiddler festivals are still going strong in Weiser. This one began a tradition of annual fiddling contests that continues to this day with the National Oldtime Fiddlers’Contest. This year’s is set for June 16 to 21. Details are available at

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