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Athens Fiddle Festival Goes On After Fertilizer Plant Fire

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Brian New
Brian joined the CBS 11 News team in 2013 after working a...
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ATHENS, Texas (CBS 11 NEWS) – Less than 48 hours after a fertilizer plant fire, that stirred memories of last year’s deadly disaster in West, the small Texas town of Athens went on with its signature event – Athens Old Fiddlers Reunion.

More than a thousand people from all over the state attended the 77th annual event in the town’s square.

But it almost didn’t happen.

Friday’s events were cancelled because of safety concerns with the site of the fire less than two blocks from the town’s square.

Organizers went back and forth Friday whether to cancel the entire event but determined late Friday afternoon to go head with Saturday’s fiddle festival.

For fiddle players, like 13-year-old River Lee of the Woodlands, the decision gave them a chance to compete in one of the state’s most storied and oldest fiddle competitions.

After performing Lee said, “I loved it.  It’s the feeling you get when you are just jamming on stage – it’s just feels great.”

Thursday more than 300 families closest to the fertilizer plant were told to evacuate.

City leaders expressed concerns about the air quality and the chance of the fire reigniting.

The amount of ammonium nitrate at the Athens facility was twice the amount that was at the plant in West.

“I feel very luck that something bad didn’t happen – very fortunate,” said resident Bobby Tuttle.

Tuttle and others sat outside the town’s antique shop on Saturday talking about how the town dodged a disaster and how they are not willing to take another chance.

Several residents say they will do whatever it takes to ensure the plant is not rebuilt at its current location.

Tuttle said, “We don’t want it especially here in town.”

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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