Friday, March 29, 2013

Mighty MO Ukulele Festival - a ukulele vacation!

When you think about ukulele hotspots in the United States, Missouri probably doesn't come to mind.  Well, Jerry and Janelle Hoffman are working hard to put Missouri on the ukulele map.

Jerry just so happens to be the owner and luthier of Boat Paddle Ukuleles (and let me tell you, he is creating some SWEET ukes).  Back in 2011, he and Janelle decided to organize the first ukulele festival that the state had ever seen, and so was born the Mighty MO Ukulele Festival.  This year, they are thrilled to be putting on the 3rd annual Mighty MO Uke Fest in peaceful New Haven, Missouri (just down the road from Boat Paddle Ukuleles).  The Cedar Creek Conference Center will play host to this year's festival which is taking place July 11th-14th.  You can make plans to join them and get registered here.

Janelle, MMUF event coordinator, told me a little bit about how it all began.

"I’ve been organizing events for 7 years and am a part time musician as well.  My husband had attended some ukulele festivals and we began to discuss the possibility of putting together the first uke fest in Missouri.  So, with a little encouragement, we decided to make it happen. The first year, the 2011 MMUF was held in downtown New Haven, MO supported by volunteers from the Riverfront Cultural Society --an organization which I started several years ago.  After the first uke fest, we realized that accommodations for food and lodging were too limited and we needed a location that could offer more space with everything on-site.  When I discovered that the nearby Cedar Creek Conference Center (which had previously been an exclusive retreat) was available, it was a no-brainer.  The Center is a jewel in the sand and a perfect venue for us with a beautiful setting.  It was there that I began to really bring all our ideas to fruition, gaining the inspiration I needed to make it a truly exciting event."

Newcomers to this year's festival can look forward to performances by Gerald Ross and the Flea Bitten Dawgs, as well as informal and themed jam sessions for beginners and experts alike.  Other festival activities include ukulele workshops, a tour Boat Paddle Ukuleles, and even free luthier service with Jerry Hoffman!  Vendors of all sorts will be setting up shop at this year's uke fest and you'll have opportunities to take home some goodies with raffles and silent auctions. 

If for some reason that's not enough to peak your interest, Janelle tells us that the resort itself is worth the trip.

"The location is worth noting because it offers a unique setting for the festival.  Cedar Creek is a secluded and cozy retreat center on 200 acres in Missouri wine country.  One point of interest is the replica of a Western Town on the property which stretches out like a movie set, originally built for the children of the Vatterott family who used the property for their retreat from the city."

As I corresponded with Janelle about the festival, I gotta say, it was very refreshing to hear the enthusiasm and passion in her responses.  Simply put, these folks are not just out to make a few bucks and sit in an ivory tower.  They genuinely LOVE all things ukulele and are actively taking part in every aspect of the festivities. 

I asked Janelle about what she hopes the Mighty MO Ukulele Festival will help accomplish.

"Everyone who comes to the festival, young or old, new or experienced, wants to be inspired to learn more and receive joy playing ukulele. And this comes about in many ways –some are subtle, some are observable.  So our mission is to offer as much inspiration and learning as we can in many forms, that fill up all the senses."

So there it have it, folks!  Check out the website, get yourself registered, and plan on spending a few days in a relaxing environment with your fellow ukers!


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