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Big Yam jam delights under grand oak trees

NATCHEZ — It was hard to find a toe not tapping and head not bobbing Saturday at the Big Yam Potatoes Fiddle Contest and Old-time Music Gathering.

The annual gathering, hosted by the Mississippi Fiddlers’ Association and Historic Jefferson College, was a perfect way to spend a weekend for Noel and Deborah Rathe from Springfield, La.

The couple made the trip to support a friend participating in the fiddling contest, but also enjoyed the other musical offerings.

“(Friday) night was just beautiful under the big trees in the dark with the lightning bugs and the music going,” Deborah said. “We’ve really enjoyed everything.”

Saturday day was a day for fiddlers and other musicians of all ages to showcase their talents and entertain crowds with music from days gone by.

“We really like this type of music,” Noel said. “This is a quality gathering, and I think it will continue to grow into something really big.”

This was the Rathe’s first trip to the festival, but Noel said he could see them returning in the coming years.

“Everyone here and in the town has been so pleasant and friendly,” he said. “It has been a really enjoyable experience all the way around for us.”

Making their second trip to the festival, Mark and Judy Conenza and Blake and Becky Harrell were sitting comfortably under one of Jefferson College’s towering oaks enjoying the mandolin styling of one of the festival’s guest musicians.

The couples were excited to be back and said the festival was living up to what they remembered from last year.

“We really enjoyed everything last year so we wanted to come back,” Mark said.

“He kept checking the Web site to see when it was,” Judy said. “He didn’t want to miss it.”

The Conenzas said they are fans of most types of music and enjoyed watching such quality musicians perform old time tunes.

“You can tell these musicians are like their own community,” Judy said. “It is fun to see them interact together musically.”

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