The Great Contest of 1926 | Bowing Down Home

As recently as the 1990s, Islanders were still talking about the Great Contest of 1926. In January 1926, the newly formed Prince Edward Island Tourist and Publicity Association announced an Island-wide contest, with the first-place winner to be awarded an expense paid trip to compete at an “international” fiddling competition to be held at the Intercolonial Club of Boston on April 6th of that year. The announcement generated considerable local excitement, and most articles dealing with the contest ran as front page news in the Guardian.

The three-day competition got underway on March 29th in the midst of a major snowstorm at Charlottetown's 1200-seat Strand Theatre. On the following day, the demand for tickets proved to be so high that an additional venue had to be established at the nearby Prince Edward Theatre, with contestants required to perform for both audiences. Several elimination rounds were required, until first prize was accorded to a fifty-year old farmer and lobster fisherman from the district of Elmira in northeastern PEI named Neil Cheverie. Second prize went to William Harvey of Ellerslie, Prince County, while third prize went to Robert Weeks of Winsloe, Queens County, who also won the step-dancing championship. Cheverie went on to compete in Boston and placed third there.

The 1926 Intercolonial Club contest was almost certainly an offshoot of a general effort in North America to revive fiddling and square dancing.. That year, supported by considerable assistance from famed industrialist Henry Ford, interest in fiddle contests rose to an all time high and hundreds were held across Canada and the U.S.