Neil & Emma Jean Dudney
Serving the Upper Cumberland Region through local programming has always been one of WCTE’s top priorities. It comes as no surprise that when Neil Dudney approached Richard and Donna Castle about taping the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree, over 20 years ago, the Castles knew that this was an idea that could not be overlooked. In 1985 WCTE began broadcasting the Jamboree live on both Friday and Saturday nights. The last two hours are available to PBS affiliates nationwide. Emma Jean said, “Channel 22 put the Jamboree on the map.”
2008 marks the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree’s 37th year, and Neil and Emma Jean Dudney have been a part of this annual event since the very beginning in 1971. Neil was one of the six founders of the Jamboree, and for many years was the sound engineer. He is now the jamboree coordinator and has been for 16 years. Although this event only lasts for two days, it takes an entire year of planning to ensure that it is a success. It would be an understatement to say that Neil has had his hands full with this event over the years. He certainly could not have done it without his wife, Emma Jean, who has always been there helping every step of the way. She started as the Jamboree “go-for,” doing whatever needed to be done. Emma Jean has also been the stage decorator as well as the craft coordinator. This couple is undoubtedly dedicated to the Jamboree and the Smithville community.
“The Jamboree was originally started to keep the old time music alive,” says Neil. There is no question that this quest has been accomplished, considering how many children compete every year in the Beginners Competition at the Jamboree, playing the music that was for generations. However, the Jamboree has achieved much more than that under the Dudneys’ supervision. The Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree has won many awards over the years. Last year Travelocity selected the Jamboree, out of more than 10,000 entries, as a top insider spot for Tennessee. Smithville’s economy has benefited tremendously from this event. In fact, the Jamboree has often been referred to as “Christmas in July” due to the increase in revenue brought about by the Jamboree. All of this could not be possible without devoted people like the Dudney’s.
Unfortunately, this will be Neil’s last year as Jamboree coordinator. He has been writing a month by month Jamboree manual for next year’s coordinator, in order to make a smooth transition. Although Neil will no longer be coordinating the Jamboree, he will still be very much involved. His dedication to this event will probably never cease to exist. The Dudneys’ devotion and support extends to WCTE, and they share the station’s commitment to the community and heritage of the Upper Cumberland region. They both appreciate the educational value of public television, and they enjoy knowing that they do not have to worry about their first grader grandson watching.
Thank you Neil and Emma Jean for the support you have given WCTE for decades, and for all you have contributed to our great Upper Cumberland Region.
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