Musicians perform Sunday at the East Benton Fiddler’s Contest, Convention and Bluegrass Festival at Littlefield Farm. Taylor Abbott/Morning Sentinel

EAST BENTON — It has always been about celebrating music at Littlefield Farm.

When the East Benton Fiddler’s Contest, Convention and Bluegrass Festival began in 1972 at 270 Richards Road, some 400 attendees gathered at the 30-acre farm.

The matriarch of the Littlefield family, Shirley, helped bring people together at the farm, while working as a housekeeper at a dormitory at Colby College in Waterville.

Now, 50 years later, the tradition lives on.

By Sunday afternoon, hundreds were setting up chairs, tents and blankets on the field facing the stage, listening to bluegrass music and contests, while enjoying food trucks on the fiddle hill. And a steady stream of festivalgoers continued trickling in throughout the afternoon.

“We started planning around January, and still had a few last minute things to do,” Chuckie Littlefield said. “We’ve just been getting ahold of people and seeing if they can come and play and stuff, that’s about it. When it gets closer, we get ahold of friends and they come help us and get it back to where we need it to be.”


The idea of the festival emerged from a gathering of musicians at Littlefield Farm. Shirley Littlefield was inspired by a student who had attended a similar music event in another state and shared his experience with her. From there, Shirley and her husband, Red, began the event and ran it together until he died in 1989. Since then, other members of the family, including Chuckie Littlefield and her siblings, have kept the tradition going.

Although it was hard to tell the turnout by early afternoon, Chuckie Littlefield said she believed the crowd to be larger than in the past few years. The event reached record numbers in 1982, when more than 3,500 arrived at the hill. In 2019, turnout was estimated at about 750.

The crowd relaxes and enjoys the music Sunday at the East Benton Fiddler’s Contest, Convention and Bluegrass Festival at Littlefield Farm. Taylor Abbott/Morning Sentinel

“We’ve got a lot more cars than I thought we’d get today, and they’re still coming in,” Chuckie Littlefield said.

Erin Kirkpatrick of Washington is no stranger to the fiddler’s fest in East Benton. Now 37, she recalls first attending the event when she was 25 and living in Albion.

“It’s been over 10 years,” Kirkpatrick said. “I come back every year for the music, the sunshine, the food and the company. We’ve packed a picnic and we’re making sure that the sun doesn’t get us.”

Joining Kirkpatrick were her friends Angelica Holmes and Taylor Robichaud of Augusta. The group strolled in just after noontime, with cooler bags, umbrellas, chairs and a sun tent. While Holmes and Kirkpatrick are no strangers to the music festival, Sunday marked Robichaud’s first time on the hill.

“I have raved about the music and I wanted (Robichaud) to be able to listen in on the awesomeness,” Holmes said. “We’ve told her about it for five or six years.”

Events were scheduled to run until dusk Sunday. Music performances throughout the afternoon included the East Benton Jug Band, the Country Choir and The Double Crossers from New Hampshire.

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