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Katrina Relief Benefit Tour - 2006

Will Warner, Executive Director

Saline Fiddlers members helped restore a historic home in Biloxi, Miss.
Saline Fiddlers members helped restore a historic home in Biloxi, Miss.

The 2006 Katrina Relief Benefit tour took the Saline Fiddlers 3000 miles, through 11 states, including five the Fiddlers had never traversed: Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri.

In nine days the group:

Like everyone, we had seen on TV the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina and read about the thousands of volunteers streaming to the region to help with recovery. We were told that the residents and volunteers could really use some diversion. So we put together a series of free concerts across the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

With so much demand for the show, there wasn't much time to participate in actual reconstruction work, but we managed to squeeze in one day of it. Guestbook entries indicate that the Fiddlers perhaps accomplished some emotional reconstruction, though:

There were several unforgettable gigs. One took place in a work camp full of teenaged volunteers. Those kids went wild, dancing in a big "mosh pit" in front of our microphones. Our bass player joined the dancers for a short time; from the back of the hall one could see a lone Fiddler cowboy hat bouncing amid a mass of flying arms and legs. By the third encore, the music was barely audible with all the hollering. Unbelievable.

The Saline Fiddlers with their new friends, The Muleskinners.
The Saline Fiddlers with their new friends, The Muleskinners.

The group spent a memorable day with Muleskinners Association, a local bluegrass/gospel band. The Muleskinners arranged a tour of the Pascagoula river for us, fed us lunch and dinner, and made us feel welcome. That evening the two groups played a joint concert to a very responsive crowd. The show ended with the two groups combining to lead the audience in singing Will the Circle be Unbroken. Unbelievable.

Behind the scenes our kids showed their toughness. They slept on cots in two big rooms in a former school and overcame adversity in many forms, including grits and corned beef hash every morning for breakfast. On stage they displayed their talent and professionalism. The crowds loved them and mobbed them after each performance.

Several people said they were surprised to see fiddlers from Michigan; they thought it was more of a mountain thing. As always, people couldn't believe that all that talent came from a single high school. One old gentleman remarked with a wink that our group forced him to reconsider his claim that the South has a monopoly on pretty girls.

Everyone was warm and generous and very appreciative.

See more photos from the tour in the Photos section

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