Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Last One? (Part 1)

I'm going to take a break from telling the story of the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest and Festival to tell you a little about...the 2015 edition of the Illinois get-together. 

I missed the first eighteen (1975-1992) contests, and after making all but six (1997, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2010, and 2011) of the next 22, I sure didn't want to miss what was billed as the final edition. 

Well, at least the final Illinois staging. 

OTPP 2015 was the final Land of Lincoln installment because of the real difficulty Old-Time Music Preservation Association members had been having in recent years to get younger hands steering the contest wheel and keeping the Memorial Day weekend event going. 

More to the point: The fans who'd been supporting the C&F had been getting older...and many of their children and grandchildren hadn't been stepping up to lend their support for the contest.  

With all of that in mind, John and Kimberly Santamaria (a couple from Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL) flew to the Peoria, IL area to find out just what Ted Lemen's claim to fame was all about. 

Kimberly and John head up a group interested in bringing the event to Florida.

And from what I could tell, the Santamarias liked what they saw. 

I met John and Kimberly at OTPP Weekend's first function- the Thursday night (5-21-2015) tuneups at the Sky Harbor Steakhouse in West Peoria, IL. 

Folks who'd been coming to the steakhouse tuneups ever since the restaurant became part of the OTPP festivities noticed something different:

That 1883 Weber upright known to contest fans as "Moby Dink" had been moved to Sky Harbor. 

What's more, Moby Dink stood proudly to the right of that yellow Grinnell Bros. upright.

And that meant lots and lots of possibilities for duets. 

Lots of those duets involved one of this year's new contestants, an Illinoisan named Nathan Beasley. (Check out his YouTube'll really get a kick out of them!) 

Nathan (he's in the yellow shirt in the photo above) played alongside just about any fellow ragtimer who went to the tuneup session...and he was kicking hind ends and taking names. 

Do you remember reading about how Marty Mincer and "Perfessor" Bill Edwards began to really hit it off when they first met in the late 1980s at OTPP? Well, Nathan and fellow Illinoisan (and reigning Junior Division kingpin) Danny Souvigny started to forge that same kind of friendship during OTPP 2015.

And it was some kind of fun to follow...especially as Contest Thursday turned into Contest Friday (and the activities moved to the riverboat Spirit of Peoria and, ultimately, to the weekend's main venue, the Embassy Suites East Peoria).

5-22-2015 was the day of the OTPP New Rag Contest, which was won by Virginian-turned-Minnesotan David Cavalari (he turned in a rollicking number called "That Old 45 RPM Rag").

Right after that came the first (and hopefully not only) OTPP Duet Contest. 

Just three pairs went out for the top prize: Dan Mouyard and Adam Yarian (the first and third contestants, respectively, to win the Regular Division crown after bagging Junior Division titles); Adam Swanson (the most decorated performer to ever enter the C&F) and the ol' "Perfessor" himself; and- you might've guessed it- Danny and Nathan.

Turned out to be some kind of close, and any of the three duos could've snagged the crown.

As things turned out, it was Bill the "Perfessor" and Adam the Prodigy. (Well, if you've ever seen the movie "The Entertainers," well...)

With that mystery out of the way, one big one remained as the main competition drew near: "What're they gonna use for a contest piano, now that 'Moby Dink' is at the steakhouse?"

Stay tuned for Part Two, and I'll tell you.