By CHERIL VERNON
The 12th Annual Old Time Music & Dulcimer Festival brought around 325 people from several states to Palestine for a variety of workshops, concerts and jamming sessions over the weekend at the Museum for East Texas Culture.
In doing so, the festival also gave a boost to the local economy.
“We had a real good turnout and a lot of the hotels, motels and restaurants benefited from it — a real boost to their businesses,” Museum Director Dan Dyer said. “We had people from Rhode Island, Michigan, Iowa and New Mexico. Even the people from Texas coming from places like Abilene and San Antonio had to get motel rooms for the three-day festival.”
The festival kicked off Thursday and ended on Saturday evening following the final of three nights of concerts filled with headliners.
Janet Deshotel from Sulphur, La. made her third trip to Palestine for the festival.
“I enjoy the venue and the artists they pull in to do the workshops and the concerts,” said Deshotel, who plays the mountain dulcimer and guitar. “It’s an easy, laid-back atmosphere that’s not too structured, so it works great. I learned some new techniques and new songs that I can take home with me.”
Deshotel credited the dulcimer festival organizers for providing a venue for old-time music.
“It’s a wonderful way to keep the tradition alive,” Deshotel said. “Some of these songs we hear, we take back with us and share, passing on the tradition of the music.”
Festival organizers Jerry and Margaret Wright credited word of mouth from past attendees for making the event successful.
“I think it went very good. We had fairly good weather, though we appreciated the rain,” Jerry Wright said on Saturday before the evening concert.
Many festival goers enjoy jamming sessions on the museum lawn, but Saturday’s rain moved the events inside.
“We held about 15 workshops during each session and it was a stretch to get everyone in the building,” Jerry Wright said due to the rain. “At our concerts, we filled up the auditorium and balcony.”
Workshops titles ranged from “Hammered Dulcimer,” “Finger Picking for Beginners,” “Basic Fiddle Blues,” “Old Time Fiddle,” “Special Effects,” “Harmonica Tunes,” “Salt Creek Hammer Dulcimer,” “Beginning Autoharp,” “Songs of the Carter Family,” “Old Time Music,” “Clogging/Flatfooting” to “Sacred Harp Singing.”
Livingston dulcimer maker Glen Noble returned to the dulcimer festival for the fourth year with his wife, Jeanie, who plays with the Sweet Strings Dulcimer Group in Livingston.
After retiring as an accountant for a school district in 2002, Noble found he had an interest in working with wood. He ended up making dulcimers through his wife’s desire to learn to play a dulcimer she had purchased as a souvenir from a trip to Cripple Creek, Colo., more than 25 years ago. The dulcimer hung on the wall but by the time Jeanie decided to use it, the instrument needed repairs. Noble decided to make one for her, kicking off his hobby of dulcimer making.
“It takes me two to three months to make a dulcimer,” Noble said. “Now I make about 15 to 20 a year. I’ve sold six while I was here this weekend.”
For the Nobles, the Palestine dulcimer festival brings the music they love to life.
“This is what you read about in the history books but here you can see it live and go to classes and concerts,” Noble said. “The Wrights are a great group of people and we enjoy being a part of the festival.”
Carolyn Arrington of Victoria has attended the festival for at least six years, playing a variety of instruments including the guitar, mandolin, fiddle, mountain dulcimer, harmonica and saxophone.
“I enjoy old time music, hearing the professionals bring the music from the Appalachian Mountains and East Coast areas,” Arrington said. “I’ve been playing for 30 to 40 years. It’s therapeutic.”
Palestine Old Time Music & Dulcimer Festival
Glen Noble, dulcimer maker