OK, Quick Draw. I am NOT acting like an invalid! As a matter of fact, I am sitting in a campground in mid-Michigan, attending the largest hammered dulcimer festival in the world. Of course, there are other instruments here too (like Irish whistles and hurdy gurdies) and lots of campers. Usually 6 k people will come through the gate during festival weekend (which is Thursday-Saturday). But as far as I am concerned, the best part of the festival is now, before the official festivities get started. People gather here three weeks ahead of the opening, just to camp and play music.
Well, it’s not really ‘camping’ in the eyes of the Camping Gestapo. We are at the Evart, Michigan, Fairgrounds, which has been newly renovated using money from a bottled water operation that wants the clear spring water from this area (not too many people here to pollute it…). So I have electricity and water, and hot showers withing 50 feet of my site.
I am camped in Vicky the Van, which I purchased some years ago. Vicky is a conversion van, and has all the conveniences of the finest small yacht: bathroom, shower, microwave, toaster oven, air conditioning, refrigerator and stove top. She’s the size of a standard van, but I can stand up inside, and there’s a fold-out double bed. Not too shabby.
I’ve been coming to this festival for years—I forget how many, but at least 9 or 10. I found out about it when I played hammered dulcimer, and I was looking for kindred souls. Little did I know that Michigan is the home of the hammered dulcimer, thanks to Henry Ford and others who cultivated it as a Michigan folk instrument. Did you know that Henry had a dance band? With a dulcimer in it?
I no longer play dulcimer, and in fact I am giving away the last of my dulcimer music. What I’ve learned is that life is cyclical, and I am in a new cycle of music as well as a new cycle of life style. I am playing other instruments, but the dulcimer brought me back to music (after 20 years of concentration on family and career), and it brought me many friends and wonderful experiences. And then one day I was at another music festival, heard a hurdy gurdy, and my life changed.
But I’ve kept the good parts of the dulcimer days—the friends, the love of the music, and this festival. Last April, as I was wondering if I could ever re-enter the Real World, I kept envisioning myself in my beautiful little camper tucked away in this rural fairground, listening to the sounds of all kinds of music. Last night I could hear French-Canadian rowdy dance tunes, voices singing spiritual songs, and hammered dulcimers, en mass, pounding out St. Anne’s reel and other dulcimer favorites. It’s a great way to fall asleep, all those sounds piling in on top of me.