Ukulele's first festival in Mexico is a hit

Musicians of all ages celebrate popular instrument

By ALAN DALE Managing Editor
Posted 9/23/22

It appears the first Ukulele Festival held by Mexico Music, 101 North Washington Street, was quite the hit this past weekend.

The event, held at Hickory Ridge Orchard, had a full lineup of …

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Ukulele's first festival in Mexico is a hit

Musicians of all ages celebrate popular instrument

Posted

It appears the first Ukulele Festival held by Mexico Music, 101 North Washington Street, was quite the hit this past weekend.

The event, held at Hickory Ridge Orchard, had a full lineup of musicians playing over the course of a good chunk of six hours with an emphasis on the ukulele.
David Reetz, who owns Mexico Music and teaches ukulele classes at the Presser Performing Arts Center, masterminded the event and reported he believed a strong turnout came for the first-time event.

“The chairs in the shelter house were mostly filled throughout the day,” Reetz said. “There were points when they were filled and there several people standing watching too. As the day went on people would come and go, so different groups there were different audiences. I can only guess how many people stop by and listened at some point.

“We were very pleased with the way the festival went. The enthusiasm of our performers and the audience was very enjoyable and encouraging. We had a great variety of performers of all ages. We had soloist, small groups and large ukulele choir groups. Music styles including pop and country cover songs, blues, jazz, gospel and Contemporary Christian. We wanted to show how the ukulele can play various styles and play with other instruments in different types of ensembles.”

Reetz noted that the ukulele workshop was a highlight of the day.

“We brought extra ukuleles and had several that wanted to participate and learn a couple of simple songs and strums and perform together,” Reetz said. “We had a lot of fun.”

Don Belcher, who was the headliner of the festival, said he was very proud to be a part of the event. He specifically noted the strong focus on youth involvement in the festival.

“It’s great: Any way you can encourage young people to get involved in music, it’s always good,” Belcher, who is from Mexico, said. “Music has really enriched my life in a lot of different ways. To get them started at a young age, David has done great work getting the kids interesting music and the ukulele is a good way to start because a lot of parents don’t have a lot of money for more expensive instruments.

“The ukulele is an inexpensive way to get started. A lot of kids are writing their own songs and performing in front of an audience. They work on their self-confidence and that can help them for the rest of their lives.”

Belcher has played the ukulele for six years and has played musical instruments since he was seven years old.

“I like the peace and serenity of it: It’s a very calming instrument,” Belcher said. “Even electrified, it’s mellow and soothing.”

Sandy Lavy of Auxvasse brought a child over to participate in the festival as a favor to a family with multiple commitments.

“I think it’s great: I am on the school board at North Callaway, and they introduced kids to the ukulele at such a young age,” Lavy said. “I think it’s awesome. I don’t know much about the ukulele, but I think it’s so versatile to go from kids to adults and they enjoy it. The kids love it. The girl I brought here said it makes her happy when she plays it.”

Now it’s on to the sequel, according to Reetz.

“We have scheduled our second Ukulele festival at Hickory Ridge Orchard, next year, for Saturday October 7, 2023,” he said. “Improvements we hope to make in the festival is having a sound man instead of running the sound from the stage and doing more audience participation.”

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