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Evart ODPC Dulcimer Funfest

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In a small town named Evart, Michigan, USA every year, acoustic music lovers descend upon the Otsego county fairgrounds for over a week. There is an official event which happens from Thursday through Sunday, but people come the weekend before and stay through early the next week because they have so much fun.

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Neither Brian nor I play either type of dulcimer (this festival started because of hammered dulcimer enthusiasts). However, Brian has been teaching basic ukulele workshops for the festival for maybe a half dozen years now. I’ve helped out for 3 years, but he did it alone before that. Also our friend, Bruce Evans, always shows up at Brian’s workshops. He helps us out without even being asked.

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We were in Evart this year the longest time yet. I used to come up for one day, then one overnight. This year I dove in and went up from Wednesday night to Saturday noon. We went to a family gathering on Saturday or we would have stayed in Evart through Sunday.

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It is getting to be a wonderful reunion to go up there now. I know enough people that it feels like “old home week” in many ways. Ukulele is starting to really take off all over the western world right now, and it is starting to show at this festival. Instrument vendors often sell out of ukuleles and the unofficial Friday night ukulele jam session gets bigger each year.

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This year we signed up to play on the main stage on Thursday night. It was rainy and hot, and we had a tuxedo and gown in the car just trying to wrinkle and get messed up, so we just dove in and played right away. We knew we were leaving Saturday and there are so many acts hoping to play on Friday nights that we did Thursday… and had a wonderful time.

The crowd at Dulcimer Fest is so appreciative of our music! Not only do they like the general genre (Tin Pan Alley, mostly love songs and novelty numbers from the 1920s) but they listen to what we are doing in a focused way. Three times during our 20 minute set we had the audience clapping in the middle of the song. That touches me in a soft spot in my heart, it is so wonderful to be that appreciated.

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When off stage, we connect with friends, jam with them, jam as a duo, and eat pie. Well, Brian eats pie anyway. The Lions club of Evart has the best homemade pies ever. You have choice after choice and all of them are good. Brian likes pie for breakfast sometimes, and a few snacks over the course of the week as well.

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He loves a good crust and I do not make crust. Because of food allergies, I have to make a lot of foods from scratch to just get foods that nurture me and fill me. I am not fond of any cooking, though baking I like a little better.

But the mess that making crust requires is just not acceptable to me, and so I either buy frozen spelt crusts at the health food store or I make crumbles with oatmeal. (I like oatmeal better than crust, anyway.) So the pies at Evart are a special feature of the week. We enjoy the folks working the booth, as well, and I get much iced tea when I’m there as well.

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I guess I could say that they also have home cooked dinners such as meatloaf. For us, fruit pie overshadows mere dinner, I guess. (Well, I can’t eat the pie but it does make me very happy that it’s there.)

I made sure to get to Karol Evans’ workshop on pronouncing Hawaiian words. With all the interest in ukulele (which is a Hawaiian instrument though used for many music types, not just Hawaiian music), there was a nice crowd at their event. At the end, Karol did a hula for us with Bruce playing ukulele and singing “Lovely Hula Hands.” She looked beautiful as ever.

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Friday night once more we attended a uke jam session hosted by our friends in the Uke ‘n Sing ukulele club from the southeast corner of Michigan. A big highlight of this event for me each year, is hearing Gil Ogawa perform the Hawaiian War Chant (which was based on a late 1800’s love song, but had English words added in 1936). Gil is not just a musician, he is fully a performer and a delight to watch and hear. I loved that! (He is so expressive when singing it is hard to get a photo… this was just after he finished one or another of his songs.)

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Photos: 1-3) stage acts including The Fabulous Heftones (me and Brian), Uke ‘n Sing, and a trio who met at the festival… middle guy on banjo is Sam, my knitter A’s big brother. 4-5) the first workshop in the poultry barn (it’s a fairgrounds) which was more than a bit crowded but the acoustics were good with all those big metal boxes somehow. 6) later Friday afternoon workshop in open-walled pavilion, which was followed by a ukulele jam session where we numbered over 90 participants. 7) Two views of the Lions’ booth where spectacular pie can be found. 8 ) Bruce and Karol Evans at the end of the Hawaiian pronounciation workshop.9) Gil Ogawa with guest singer Nancy Penny (thank you, Bruce Evans, for reminding me of her name), at Friday night uke jam.

2 Responses to “Evart ODPC Dulcimer Funfest”

  1. Howlin' Hobbit Says:

    “Three times during our 20 minute set we had the audience clapping in the middle of the song. That touches me in a soft spot in my heart, it is so wonderful to be that appreciated.”

    I just got back (in the wee, foggy hours of the morning) from just such a gig, over in Ellensburg, WA, a bit over 100 miles from Seattle. Folks were clapping for the solos, laughing at the jokes (both in and out of the songs), getting up and dancing; they even set a record for “most CD sales at a single Snakey gig.” I’ll be doing a full report in my own blog in a bit.

    The money was probably the best that Snake Suspenderz has ever seen but it is *very* nice to say that wasn’t the best part.

  2. Bruce Evans Says:

    Lynn, the unamed singer with Gil is Nancy Penny.

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