Local fiddling phenom Ridge Roberts keeps winning championships, and now has earned a spot on stage to perform a year from now at the Grand Old Opry.
Roberts, a sophomore at North Central Texas Academy at Happy Hill in Somervell County, on Sunday captured the Open Division championship at the 48th annual Grand Master Fiddler Championship, held in the Ford Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame. He is believed to be the second-youngest winner of that Grand Master title.
Roberts topped a field of 19 fiddlers in the Open Division, taking home a plaque along with $1,200 in prize money and a $500 gift certificate from D’Addario Strings.
Even though Roberts is only 16 years old, at this point in his fiddling career he’s starting to make the rounds to defend multiple major championships. His next big event will be Sept. 28, when Roberts will be trying to defend his title in the World Championship Fiddlers Festival at Porth Agriculture Arena in Crockett.
The win in Nashville also earned the right to perform on the Grand Ole Opry stage on the eve of next year’s Grand Master event.
In addition, Roberts was this year’s recipient of the Charlie Bush Award, which goes to one individual in the Grand Masters competition for the Outstanding Traditional Fiddler Performance.
“It was a nice surprise,” Roberts said of the Charlie Bush award, adding that the Grand Master event has always been considered as a “very prestigious” and has even attracted the presence of country superstars such as Roy Acuff, Dolly Parton and her old pal, Porter Waggoner.
'I was very happy with how I played,” Roberts said. “I wasn’t really sure how I would do. It was great.
“Getting to play at the Grand Ole Opry will be really cool, and being a judge will be cool. I’m just really excited about it.”
Another reward, in addition to being invited to play at the Grand Ole Opry before next year’s Grand Master event, is that Roberts was named as a judge for the 2020 competition. However, since Grand Master champions are not eligible for the following year, he won’t be able to compete there again until 2021.
Roberts has won the Texas junior state championship twice, and the Colorado state junior title once. On June 22, he placed third in the Grand Championship Division (open to adults and children) at the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest in Weiser, Idaho, a year after winning the junior division (ages 13-17).
Another plus that went along with making the trip to Nashville was the fact that Ridge and his family were able to visit his oldest brother Aedan, who is a 19-year-old freshman at Vanderbilt University there in Nashville.
Roberts, along with youngest brother Rio and parents John and Cindy Roberts, live in eastern Hood County.