by Jim D’Ville // Photos by: Shari Ballard
How do you pull off presenting a wonderful ukulele festival for 200 people without charging admission? The answer is: with heart. The 4th Annual Waterford Township Ukulele Festival was held Saturday, September 15 in the small lakeside village of Waterford Township, Michigan, forty miles north of Detroit. The event is hosted by two local ukulele groups, The Waterford Township Ukulele Group (WTUG) and Motor City Ukes.
Craig Fuller of Motor City Ukes explains the purpose behind the event. “The festival is a fundraiser for Outreach International, Detroit Hope, and local Waterford families. We raise money through donations at the door and a silent auction. Items for the silent auction are donated by individuals and corporate sponsors. Any paid performers are also paid for through donations. The WTUG Festival ends each year with a zero dollar balance in our account. We also depend on our very strong volunteer staff from many Michigan ukulele groups and the hosting venue, Waterford Community of Christ.”
The festival presented both free and ticketed workshops led by Michigan’s Ukulele Ambassador Ben Hassenger, Mike Hefferan, Andy and Julianna Wilson, and this writer. Other activities included a rousing sing-along of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” with choreographed puppets, group strums, open mic and a used instrument sale. The performance portion of the festival featured The Springtails, the husband and wife duo of Andy and Julianna Wilson. Andy is a multi-instrumentalist playing every size of harmonica imaginable, trumpet and ukulele. Julianna handles the singing, while switching between soprano ukulele and banjo uke.
The Waterford Township Ukulele Festival is the perfect template for small ukulele clubs wishing to host their own festival. Keep it short and sweet–say a one-day event over a six to seven-hour period. Don’t do it alone. Get as many volunteers as possible on board. Seek out some outside funding to cover expenses and keep it under a few hundred people.
Shari Ballard, a seasoned ukulele festival attendee, says of the Waterford festival, “What is extraordinary about this incredibly robust festival is that it also feels like a festival-with-a-cause. The festival itself is free to all attending. Yet, those who are able may contribute what they can to help others in the community and beyond. There is a greater purpose.”