Thousands enjoy annual Duclimer Funfest

EVART — Hundreds of music lovers from across the country and beyond found enjoyment and fellowship in Evart for this year's 42nd Annual Dulcimer Funfest.

Although it was hard to gauge the number of people walking into the Osceola County 4-H FFA Fairgrounds, gate monitors were sure they have seen more attendees this year than last. The event, hosted by the Original Dulcimer Players Club, spreads across the grounds with workshops and vendors in almost every barn and building.

Musicians traveled throughout, carrying their instruments in their arms or by cart behind them. Spontaneous jam sessions took place under pavilions and out in the open areas where attendees not in workshops could rest, listen and learn.

"This year has been going really well," said ODPC President Kathy Rayman on Thursday. "We are up from last year's attendance."

Children, teens, adults and seniors could be seen playing not only hammered and mountain dulcimers, but guitars, fiddles, ukuleles, banjos and recorders. Vendors offered CDs, music books, stringed instruments of all types, dulcimer accessories, intricately carved hammers, protective cases and everything else attendees may need during their visit.

"Without the kids, our music dies," Rayman added. "They are the next generation and it's important to keep the kids engaged and into the music."

Eight-year-old Avi Setiawan and her mother, Susan Setiawan, of Middlebury, Ind., attended a children's hammered dulcimer workshop together for Avi to learn additional playing skills. They were joined by seven other children learned who how to correctly perform each note.

"I like making music and I like playing with my friends at the camp site," Avi said between songs.

This is the fourth time at the funfest for Susan, who enjoys coming back year after year.

"I love all of the different classes you can go to and the people you can learn from," she said. "There are a great variety of people here who are excellent. Avi came along this time and wanted to play."

The festival brings individuals from Canada and many of the county's 50 states, but this year Paula Brander traveled all the way from Mali, located in West Africa. The New Jersey native has been playing the autoharp for about 30 years and this is her first time at the Dulcimer Funfest.

"I have totally loved being out here," Brander said. "People are very friendly and open. It's a lot of fun. I'm enjoying creating homemade music with people who are here to have a good time."

The Dulcimer Funfest not only reaches all ages, but also musicians of varying experience, with free workshops for everyone from novice to expert and in between.

Sonja Stough, a resident of St. Louis, Mo., has been playing the hammered dulcimer for about two years and set up her hammered dulcimer.

"I love the sound because it's harp-like, and I like the feel of standing and hitting the hammers on strings," Stough said.

She is enjoying herself to the highest degree during her first time at the festival.

"I love it," Stough added. "I just want to expand my ability to play the hammered dulcimer, see what techniques are out there and the skills of other players."