Daron Tapscott couldn't compete, but he came back anyway.
He won the fiddling competition last year in the Kansas State Fiddling and Picking Championships, which disqualified him this year. But on Sunday he was standing beneath a tree in South Park. With a fiddle under his chin, he was learning a new tune from a mandolin player.
"I wanted to hear the fiddle contest," said Tapscott, a Lee's Summit teen-ager. "I came here to get some lessons.''
The championships, organized by local residents, featured contests in such traditional musical genres as ensemble singing, flat-picking, mandolin, banjo, mountain dulcimer, miscellaneous acoustic instruments and, of course, fiddling. The contest, which was the 11th held in Lawrence, also featured concerts by Paul and Win Grace and Family, the Waffles and Lone Run.
"It was the biggest crowd ever," said Laurie Mackey, one of the organizers. "We've counted 3,000 people in the past, and it was more than that.''
VISITORS ON Sunday milled around the two stages set up in South Park and listened to the performers. The judges for the seven contests sat behind quilt-draped screens so they wouldn't see who was playing.
But more than a few people stayed away from the crowds. They huddled in small groups in shaded areas and traded folk music tips. Some of these same people will be doing the same Sept. 19 through 22 at the flatpicking contests in the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield.
"I just love coming here to do some free picking with people," said Larry Cain, the mandolin player from Kansas City, Mo., who was helping Tapscott. "It's a great warmup for Winfield.''
Tapscott, a blond, clean-cut fiddler who said he also plays the classical violin, said a music teacher led him into the art of folk music.
"MY TEACHER said I had more of an ear for music than playing ability," said Tapscott. "I was encouraged to play more bluegrass.''
People who win first place in the contests can't compete in the same category for the next three years, according to the contest rules. Chris Biggs of Junction City said he won the guitar contest last year, but that didn't stop him from competing Sunday on the banjo. He stood under another tree sharing tunes with another mandolin player.
"I come here more to get people in jamming and stealing licks and learning new tunes," he said. "There aren't a whole lot of pickers in central Kansas, although there are some in Manhattan.''
Biggs went on to take second place in the banjo competition.
One of the more unusual teams in the contest was Alice Backer and Bart Smith, who sang traditional gospel songs in the ensemble folk-singing competition. Smith lives in Paola, and Backer lives in White Plains, N.Y. They said they met at a West Virginia folk festival, and since Backer was in Kansas City for a business meeting they decided to get together and sing. They came in second.
"We don't have any time to practice," Backer said.
HERE IS the list of winners:
Mountain dulcimer: Teresa Stovall, Augusta, first; Lawrence Chapman, Lawrence, second; Alan McFarlane, Lawrence, third.
Mandolin: Ken Smith, Manhattan, first; Joe Pickett, Lawrence, second; David Hawkins, Wichita, third.
Miscellaneous acoustic: Dean Lippincott, Hutchinson, first; Clark Jamison, Lawrence, second; Bill Stephens, Topeka, third.
Banjo: Leo Posch, McLouth, first; Chris Biggs, Junction City, second; Jim Krause, Lawrence, third.
Ensemble Folk: Hardliners, Lawrence and Topeka, first; Alice Backer, White Plains, N.Y., and Bart Smith, Paola, second; Leon Karnowski, Topeka, third.
Fiddle: Kelly Werts, Wichita, first; Pat Ireland, Kansas City, Kan., second; Tricia Speacer, Lecompton, third.
Guitar: Larry Lintner, Edgerton, first; Joe Payne, Gladstone, Mo., second; David Hawkins, Wichita, third.
Youth winner: Tod Etter, Leavenworth.