Dulcimer fest attracts thousands despite summer heat wave

EVART — Not even the humidity and heat reaching close to triple digits could keep music lovers away from the first day of this year’s 41st annual Dulcimer Funfest at the Osceola County 4H-FFA Fairgrounds. Thousands of campers and visitors from across the world gathered at the event to take part in all things acoustic, with hammered and mountain dulcimers obviously taking the forefront. Free workshops for different skill levels attracted hundreds to the barns, which offered shade from the sun, and vendors sold large and small instruments, intricately designed hammers, tuners, rhythm spoons, recorders, music booklets, CDs, instrument care and cleaning supplies and much more. One of the vendors is Andy Young of Chicago, who has been playing the dulcimer for about 25 years and produces CDs of Irish, blues and gypsy jazz tunes for sale at his booth. A musician at heart, he also can play the drums and the Irish flute, but has taken a special appreciation for the dulcimer. “When I saw one of these I was fascinated by it because it incorporates drumming abilities,” Young said while taking a break from playing his hammered dulcimer. “You can play anything on this. There are never-ending possibilities.” After attending the Dulcimer Funfest in the ‘90s and taking a long hiatus away from the event, he has been back since last year. He said he was surprised to find there are people that remember him from a decade ago. “I love the people here,” Young said, encouraging others to come out to the fairgrounds. “Everyone is so friendly. It’s a family.” In addition to his sales, he will be teaching a workshop at 4 p.m. today and at 2 p.m. on Saturday featuring the genres in which he specializes. The Dulcimer Funfest in Evart is the largest in the world and annually brings so many people to the area that the local campgrounds and hotels completely sell out. This year is a first for Ontario native Fern Powers, who just recently discovered dulcimers and dulcimer music and has set up a small tent to call her own. “I just fell in love with them and I decided I had to get one,” Powers said. “It’s a sound like nothing I’ve ever heard. It’s so mellow.” Thanks to a quick search online, she found a link to the three-day event and made a point to attend. “I’m enjoying it so much. I’m surprised at how popular it is in Michigan,” Powers added. Although she has a hammered dulcimer on order, it has yet to arrive to her door. However, Powers said she will most likely purchase an inexpensive one at the funfest so she has one to learn on during a beginner’s workshop, travel with and return with next year. The event will continue through Saturday and welcomes other stringed and acoustic instruments, including guitars, upright basses, recorders, fiddles and violins, mandolins and more. The event is open to everyone for a $5 entry fee. For more information on the event or a list of workshops, visit dulcimers.com.