Strings were throbbing and feet were hopping as the “Biggest Fiddling and Jigging Championship North of 60” shuffled up a storm this past weekend in Hay River.
The championship – the only one entirely dedicated to fiddling and jigging in the North, organizers say – has been on hiatus for the past few years, but made a comeback this summer after the Soaring Eagle Friendship Centre re-opened in June.
“The championship was started back in 1996 by the friendship centre, but it hasn’t run every year for various reasons,” Sharon Pekok, executive director at the centre, told The Journal. “This isn’t a talent show; what makes it special is that it’s a competition and it draws people not just from the North, but from northern BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan, too, and sometimes even further than that.”
According to Pekok, the competition has been “widely” missed.
“As soon as we opened our doors again, the calls started, asking about the jigging and fiddling championships…They haven’t run for a while and there was only a talent show in 2011, which isn’t the same.”
Over $10,000 in prize money was handed out to the top five dancers and fiddlers in each age category, thanks to a number of sponsors in Hay River.
“For fiddling, the prizes range from $300 to $800,” Pekok said. “In jigging, it ranges from $200 to $1,000.”
The event featured three categories in each fiddling and jigging tournament: seniors (65 and over), adults and youth/children. The games began at noon Saturday at the Don Stewart Recreation Centre and the finals took place Sunday.
Bringing out the best for the judges wasn’t the only thing on the agenda during the championships. A dance Saturday night with music provided by North Country Rock and a $5,000 bingo on Sunday evening added to the mix.
The events are a major generator of funds for the centre, Pekok said, which is no small detail as it was financial trouble that closed down Soaring Eagle for nearly 18 months previously.
“The championships are just a really nice event and it brings everyone together; it’s family friendly,” Pekok said. “For myself, I don’t even do any fiddling or jigging, but I love it because I can feel the energy in the room.”