Eight-year-old Kevin Hoekendorf shuffled onto the stage, perched his pint-sized violin against his neck and ambled through the same routine he's practiced 100 times before.
The young, gap-toothed fiddler walked away Sunday with a first-place trophy for his effort, the second straight year that he has been named champion of the Pee Wee Division of the California Old-Time Fiddlers Assn. District 8 amateur fiddle contest.
"I've been practicing a long time for this," he said, grinning outside the Oak View Community Hall. "I've been practicing each piece about 15 times every day for weeks."
Kevin beat out seven other young fiddlers for his crown, but next year, he'll face stiffer competition when he moves up to the Junior Junior Division for ages 9 to 12.
Sunday's seventh annual tournament attracted 40 contestants from throughout the state and an audience nearing 100, contest chairman Joe Hunsinger said.
"It's making a resurgence," he said of fiddles in particular and country music in general. "People are going back to their roots, and this is America's music."
More than half of the fiddlers were 18 or younger, Hunsinger said, adding, "A lot of the local teachers are pushing this old-style music in their classrooms."
Otis Chamberlain, the contest's oldest performer at 89, said he only recently rediscovered the fun of fiddling.
"I had laid the fiddle down for about 40 years," he said, after racking up 731 points in the Seniors Division. "But I picked it up again when I joined the Old-Time Fiddlers."
His points were not good enough Sunday, however. Rocky Seago, 69, of Bakersfield was named Senior Division champion.
Three judges, huddled inside another room with earphones and only numbers to match the performances, rated contestants on style, rhythm and timing, clarity and tone, and difficulty of selections.
Contestants were allotted four minutes to perform three songs, including at least one waltz and one hoedown, Hunsinger said.
Other first-place finishes were awarded to Adam Giacopuzzi, Junior Junior Division; Saarika Sharma, Junior Division; Rae Huffman, Ladies Division; Selmer Peterson, Men's Division, and Emogene Jacobi and Rocky Seago, Twins Division.