Eight state champion fiddlers, free cake and four hours of old-time fiddling — all in a church on New Year’s Eve.
The Missouri United Methodist Church at 204 S. Ninth St., along with the Missouri Traditional Fiddle and Dance Network, is hosting a traditional fiddle exhibition as part of Columbia’s First Night 2004. The fiddle music, along with other entertainment and activities, begins at 6 p.m. in the church with a cake walk.
“We are giving away as many cakes as we can in an hour,” said Jane Accurso, First Night director of entertainment.
Entertainment for the evening includes more than 60 performances at 12 downtown venues. Karen Ramey, director of operations of First Night 2004, expects up to 7,000 people to attend the 10th annual alcohol-free celebration.
New to the First Night 2004 lineup is a site dedicated to poetry and literature. Cherry Street Artisan, 111 S. Ninth St., will feature poetry read to jazz and a reading of “The Life of Langston Hughes” by Cliff London.
Two new locations have been added since last year’s celebration: Tiger Columns Hotel and Calvary Episcopal Church.
Admission to First Night activities requires a button that can be purchased for $7 at Columbia Parks and Recreation office at 1 S. Seventh St., Gerbes Supermarkets or Streetside Records until 5 p.m. Wednesday. Buttons will also be on sale at each venue. Children 6 and under are free.
The price of admission was $5 last year, but organizers raised the price to compensate for a loss of state funding. First Night received $2,000 in state funds this year compared to about $4,000 the previous year, Ramey said.
The fiddle exhibition will feature fiddlers who have taken the top prize at the Missouri State Fair — Steve Head, Kelly Jones, Billy Lee, Howard Marshall, Lynn Wells, John White, John Williams and Matt Wyatt.
The fiddlers will lead a children’s dance beginning at 7 p.m. followed by an exhibition set up like an old-time fiddle contest. Each fiddler will play a waltz, hoedown and tune of their choice.
Lee, 74, of Wright City, said Saturday that he wasn’t sure which songs he will be playing yet. Most fiddlers don’t know until they get up there, Lee said.
During the mock competition, traditional dance troupes from Missouri will be performing. Following the exhibition at 9:30 p.m., there will be an open dance. After that, the Ironweed Bluegrass Band will perform with guest champion fiddler Jones.
The organizers didn’t forget about Tiger fans. They will be able to watch the Independence Bowl between Missouri and Arkansas beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Tiger Columns and the garage at Parker Funeral Service.
The evening will end with the traditional fireworks display at midnight above Courthouse Square.