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2024 grff songwriter contest

The Mission of the Great River Folk Festival is to celebrate and cultivate folk culture rooted in the Driftless Region by uniting independent artists and community.  In keeping with the GRFF mission, the annual songwriting contest strives to promote public appreciation and support for new and emerging songwriters and to celebrate the songwriting craft.

The Great River Folk Festival and the community who attends our festivals value diversity, equity, and inclusion.  We strive for gender parity and actively welcome participation from individuals of all cultures, races, and religions!


Entries for this singer/songwriter competition are welcome from anyone who writes and performs original music, and who is not currently signed to a third-party recording or publishing deal.



*artists must be within 300 mile radius of La Crosse, Wisconsin

Prizes include 10 hours of studio time* at Sound Strations Audio Production Inc. as well as cash prizes for top three finalists.

* 10 hours of studio time can be used for tracking, mixing, or mastering.  Can be used in 1 or multiple sessions.  The project must be started within 1 year of the award



2024 submissions now closed!

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Thank you for submitting to the 2024 GRFF Songwriter Contest. The judges look forward to reviewing all submissions and will be notifying the (6) Finalists by June 15, 2024. Please remember to click that 'Donate' button and send $10 for that entry fee to the fest! Any questions or concerns can be addressed to

Upon filling out form click the 'Apply Now' button.

The 'Donate' button is separate from the Apply Now button. Be sure to donate the $10 fee to ensure entry into the contest!


Contest video submissions must be sent via the SUBMISSION FORM with the following information:

  • Songwriter name & short bio 

  • Youtube link to the song video(s)

    • Artist must submit two (2) original songs​

  •  Lyric sheets in pdf format for each song submitted.

  • IN THE SUBMISSION VIDEOS, the contestant must state that the songs/performance is "a submission for the 2024 Great River Folk Fest Songwriter Contest." Videos must be live recordings created for the sake of this contest, with an introduction stating that intention.  

  • Produced videos (i.e. music videos) will not be accepted.  

  • Video quality does not need to be professional, but should be good enough quality to see and hear the performer(s) clearly.”

  • In order for your application to be considered, please click the "Donate" button within the submission form to pay an entry fee of $10. By entering, you agree that this entry fee is necessary to cover the processing and administration of this contest.

We will accept submissions beginning May 1, 2024 and ending June 1st, 2024, or until we reach submissions from 75 songwriters.

The finalists will be selected from their Youtube video submissions by a panel of judges. A total of six (6) finalists will be selected and invited to the Great River Folk Festival Songwriter Contest Showcase.  Each finalist will perform their two chosen songs to a panel of judges.

The top (6) finalists will be notified by June 15, 2024.





  • The GRFF Songwriter Contest is open to songwriters who are 18 years of age or older by the date of the submission.

  • For the purposes of the competition, a song must have both lyrics and music. All submitted songs must be original and have been written or co-written by the entrant(s).

  • Past grand prize winners of the GRFF Songwriter Contest are not eligible to enter the contest the following calendar year. All other previous entrants and finalists are eligible.

  • Artists must be within a 300 mile radius of La Crosse, Wisconsin.


Our judges will use a consistent set of standards to make impartial decisions as to the merits of the song(s) and performance. We will strive to make sure that the judging is fair and follows our mission of supporting and encouraging songwriters.

The judging and scoring, for both the online submissions as well as the finals, will be based on the following:

  1. Song structure and composition

    • The song has a clear theme or cohesive idea​

    • The song has clearly identifiable sections, verses, melody and chorus

    • The song is between 2 to 5 minutes in length

  2. Lyrics

    • The lyrics evoke an emotional response from the listener​

    • The lyrics are singable and memorable

    • The lyrics have an identifiable rhyme scheme or pattern (should it serve the song)

    • KEEP IN MIND - this is a family friendly event - lyrics should be written and performed with the audience in mind.

  3. Music & Melody

    • The music and melody adds to the emotional impact of the song​

    • The music keeps the listener interested and engaged

    • The music and lyrics fit together in a cohesive way

  4. Originality

    • Must be an original song.

    • Songs and performances should express themes in a new or fresh way.​


  • The Finals are held at the Songwriter Contest Showcase during the Great River Folk Festival on Sunday, August 25, 2024.

  • From the Showcase performance, judges will select an overall winner, as well as two (2) honorable mentions.

  • The Grand Prize songwriter has the opportunity to play a full set of music the same day as the competition.



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Past Winners

Here is a list of winners, and if you would love to hear them and/or buy a digital album with a song from each click the bottom LISTEN HERE

2009 - Mike Caucutt

2010 - Tim Fast

2011 - Casey & Joe Danielson

2012 - Tom & Barb Webber

2013 - Aric Sampson

2014 - Derek Olsen

2015 - Michael Monroe

2016 - Blaine Howard

2017 - Laura Joy

2018 - Greg Gilbertson

2019 - Russ Parrish

2020 - Shanna in a Dress

2021 - Siena Christie

2022 - Andy Baker

2023 - Sarah King

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