Over 100 attendees at Las Cruces UkeFest 2017 had the most fun you can have on four strings. They came from as far away as Washington and New York, throughout the Southwest, and all over New Mexico. They spent the weekend attending workshops by stellar instructors, enjoying a concert, jam session, and gospel session, and performing in an open mic. Over a dozen lucky participants went home with drawing prizes, including a KoAloha ukulele valued at over $900.
The event joins dozens of others around the country and around the world providing the opportunity for ukulele enthusiasts to learn from the best and spend time with others who share their passion. It also served to put Las Cruces on the ukulele map, with happy attendees vowing to return next year. “Get a bigger room!” someone shouted. “We’re bringing more friends next year.”
Even kids got into the act, taking a workshop with instructor Heidi Swedberg, who taught them to play the lively tune “Istanbul, Not Constantinople,” which they then performed for a roomful of adults at the beginning of the fun and games workshop, which had participants strumming, dancing, laughing, and bonding.
The event was declared sold out about two weeks in advance. The theatre at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum was full for the Friday evening concert.
Event sponsors include Southwest Senior, the Bulletin, Las Cruces Magazine, KRWG-FM, Hilton Garden Inn, Ukulele Magazine, Desert Moon Communications, KoAloha, Ohana, Kala, Amahi, Music Mart, and members of the Las Cruces Ukes. The festival was also supported by a grant from the City of Las Cruces.
Jenna Molina of the Las Cruces Ukes Teen Club was able to attend the festival thanks to a scholarship from Southwest Senior.
The event is hosted by the Las Cruces Ukes, a non-profit community group of ukulele enthusiasts. They offer weekly adult practices for all levels of players Thursday evenings at Good Samaritan, 3011 Buena Vida Circle, with a strum for fun session at 5:15 p.m. and a performance group practice at 6:30. They also host a kids and teen clubs. There is no fee to participate in their regular programs.
They also perform around the community, including this month’s Cancer Survivor Day celebration and El Caldito’s veterans appreciation dinner. More information at lascrucesukes.com and lascrucesukefest.com.