Instrument Picking Contests

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Official Hovander Pickoff Rules

As part of the Hovander Homestead Bluegrass festival there will be a bluegrass instrumentalist’s contest called the “Hovander Pickoff”. It will be held Saturday, September 3rd, 2016 from 9-12 pm at the Hovander Homestead County Park in Ferndale, WA.

In keeping with the dedication to traditional bluegrass music that the festival represents, this contest is judged on a bluegrass instrumentalist’s ability to display their talents, musicianship and entertainment abilities as a traditional bluegrass musician. Judges will be selected from Hovander Homestead Bluegrass festival stage performers and from the Pacific Northwest bluegrass community.

We are implementing a Hovander Homestead Bluegrass Tradition with this contest.  All 1st place winners will play together for a 30-minute set on the Main Stage during the second day of the festival. A Set List will be provided at time of registration.  This will provide visibility to the winners and an enjoyable time for festival attendees.

Instrument Categories:

  • Banjo
  • Dobro
  • Fiddle
  • Flatpick Guitar
  • Mandolin

Contest Prizes (There will be a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winner from each instrument category)

  • 1st Place: Main Stage performance, Bragging rights and a $25 gift card
  • 2nd Place: See Below
  • 3rd Place:  See Below

All 3 finalists on each instrument will receive a commemorative Hovander Festival Pickoff Contest Certificate and your name listed on the HHBGF web page until next festival.

Contest Rules

  1. Registration:  Registration will be accepted on-line by clicking on the registration button above or on site by no later than 8:30 am on Saturday, September 3rd.  However, to help us in logistics we appreciate the information electronically and in advance.  All contestants must hold a valid weekend pass.  Box office opens at noon on Friday and 8am on Saturday.  Tickets may also be purchased on the website in advance.
  2. Judging:  To maintain integrity in our contest, the following rules will apply.
    1. Except for Executive Committee Members and those in charge of the contest, participation as a contestant is open to Anyone.
    2. Judges may not judge in a category where other members from their band are participating as a contestant.
    3. Judges may not judge in a category where another family member is participating as a contestant
  3. Entry Fees:  Except for the requirement to purchase a weekend pass, there are no other entry fees.

Any questions should be directed to .

First Place Winners:

All first place winners are required to perform on the Main Stage on Sunday Morning at a time between 12pm and 2pm.  Performers attire should be suitable and appropriate for a family audience.  Looking sharp is always encouraged.  The schedule provides for a 30-minute set. The following is the list of songs to choose from to be performed during the set.  If all members agree on a different song(s), that too will be accepted. Song length should be kept to no more than 5 minutes per song:

    1. Blackberry Blossom – G
    2. Cherokee Shuffle – A
    3. Whiskey Before Breakfast – D
    4. Dear Old Dixie – G
    5. St Ann’s Reel – A
    6. Bill Cheatum – A
    7. Foggy Mountain Breakdown – G
    8. Cumberland Gap – G or A
    9. Fireball – G

1st Place Winners: All 1st Place winners must be present in the tent behind the stage entrance at least 15 minutes prior to The performance.  Winners of the contest will be announced Saturday Evening on the main stage.

  1. Song Choice Guidelines for Contest:

Each contestant will play two selections which must include a slow song and a fast song. The 2 styles can be in any order. Song selection is at the contestant’s discretion, and variety is encouraged. Bluegrass music is the focus of this festival and in that spirit contestants are asked to choose songs that are in the bluegrass tradition. Of course the interpretation of this rule is entirely up to the judges so contestants are encouraged to be knowledgeable about what traditional bluegrass music is and tailor their song choices and arrangements of those songs accordingly. Visit for the standard definition for this contest’s purposes.

  1. Performance Guidelines: Each contestant should plan to limit their stage time to ten minutes or less, though a reasonable grace period may be given at the judge’s discretion. Accident beyond the control of the contestant (such as string breakage, sound interruption) may result in a replay at the contestant’s request and if the judges so merit.
  2. Stage Setup: To avoid delays with setup, each contestant and accompanist must use a single mic setup provided by the Hovander Homestead Bluegrass festival. Contestants must perform with acoustic instruments; no electrically amplified instruments, pickups, or contact mics will be allowed in this contest.
  3. Accompanists:  Contestants are allowed one accompanist.  Stage Setup rules apply to accompanists.
  4. Other Considerations: Songs, material, and dress must be of an appropriate nature suitable for family entertainment. No contestant may compete in more than one instrument category. Any contestant appearing under the influence of alcohol or drugs will be disqualified with no refunds.
  5. Exclusions: Members of the Hovander Homestead Bluegrass festival organizing committee, Festival directors and Judges, may not enter this contest.

Judging Criteria: Contestants in the Pickoff will be judged on:

  • 50% Ability (includes accuracy, clarity, rhythm, intonation, tone and execution)
  • 25% Material Selection (includes difficulty, authenticity, appropriateness and taste)
  • 25% Creativity (includes expression and arrangement)
  1. Finality: Decisions by the judges will be final. Contestants may view their score sheets upon request by contacting the Hovander Pickoff manager, and judges are encouraged to provide comments to provide constructive feedback for contestants.
  2. Recording Rights: All commercial recording rights are reserved and shall become the property of Hovander Homestead Bluegrass Festival. Signing of the registration form by contestant acknowledges such recording rights and acceptance of all rules and regulations of the Hovander Pickoff.

The Day of the Contest: Contestants must report to the registration table at the Picnic Shelter Stage no later than 8:00 am on Saturday, Sept. 3rd to draw for their place in the lineup, review the rules, and ask any questions pertaining to judging. Contestants must be present and ready to perform at their scheduled time, or they will be disqualified. Contestants must remain in the contest stage area in case of a tie. If a playoff is required and a contestant is not present, the award will go to the other competitor.