© 2024
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Fiddle Festival


The Governor Arthur A. Link Fiddle Festival occurred at the Former Governor’s Mansion this past weekend. The festival promotes the lifelong love Governor Link had for music, especially the violin. Art Link was only eighteen years of age when the dry winds of the early ‘30s blackened the skies of the Central Plains with dust. Perhaps for Link, the fiddle festival was reminiscent of a contest that occurred back then in the northwest part of the state, not far from the Link homestead. Although the people of North Dakota didn’t have much in the way of tangible assets during the Great Depression, they did manage to retain their unflappable determination for a better tomorrow, and they retained their customs – especially their music.

On this date in 1932, the Upper Missouri Fiddler’s Festival took place at Williston with a crowd estimated at three thousand. Fiddlers came from eastern Montana and western North Dakota to perform in a field of thirty-six contestants. The musicians ranged in age from teens to pioneers, such as 72-year-old Andrew Desjarlaise of Trenton, North Dakota. Mr. Desjarlaise was of Chippewa descent and his fifty-year-old fiddle mirrored the weathered features of the Plains veteran. There were many other varieties of violins, including a one hundred-year-old Stradivarius owned by Thomas A Stenehjem of Williston. Others, such as the fiddle of Olaf Tweten of Watford City, was well over one hundred years old, but that of Ole Langseth was but a few months old. Mr. Langseth had built it himself out of native cedar and had completed it just in time for Christmas. A bull fiddle, more than two hundred years old, was used to accompany some of the fiddlers, and Mr. Langseth’s daughter helped out on the piano.

L. V. Coulter of Williston took home the cup, and Raol Johnson of Ray came in second. Third place was given to Henry Jarland of Wheelock. Ole Langseth’s homemade fiddle must have exhibited some musical quality for it netted him a fourth place tie with Steve Marmon of Wolf Point, Montana. Some of the fiddlers played music that related their heritage from Ireland, Scandinavia, Germany, even the native Metis with their Turtle Mountain music. Although this fiddle festival provided badly needed entertainment, it also reflected the coming together of the diverse ethnic backgrounds of the participants who shared their common love of music.

Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis


Minot Daily News February 8, 1932