by RENEE PATRICK Cascade A&E Editor
A group of local ukulele enthusiasts have joined forces to create the first annual Uke U (Ukulele University), taking place at Runaway Ranch, July 20-22. The weekend will tap into the growing popularity of ukulele jams in the area, and musicians will be coming from all over the west coast to participate.
“The Ukulele phenomena is growing throughout the country,” said Roger Fisher, one of Uke U’s co-chairs. “It’s inexpensive and they are fun to play.” Fisher was a part of the formation of a ukulele group about a year ago. Starting with about ten members, the group now has over 60 and meets weekly to play together.
“People come to the jam, and if they don’t leave here with a smile on their face, something is wrong! It’s an uplifting and wonderful experience when you are with a large group a people.” Fisher continued, “We plan on it being an annual event and it will start Friday night with a Hawaiian Luau. It will be a very family oriented weekend.”
All the performers are volunteers and the proceeds from the weekend will go to start ukulele programs in area schools. “The plan is to buy ukuleles and put them in the hands in the kids, especially here where we have lost lots of music programs in the schools. The concept and spirit is a great fit for kids,” said Fisher.
Bob and Linda Rasmussen were ukulele veterans when they moved up to Bend from Santa Cruz. Having grandfathered a ukulele club with over 400 members, they were elemental in the formation and growth seen in Central Oregon. Other Southern Californian groups also boast hundreds of members and many from those ukulele clubs will make the trip up to Runaway Ranch in July.
Organizing the event for the first time has been a practice in logistics, but despite figuring out permits, insurance, parking, camping and more, Fisher said the most important aspect to the weekend will be making sure everyone is happy and having a great time.
Planned activities include workshops for all levels, jams, open mic, live performances and the opportunity to spend time with people from throughout the ukulele community. Friday night will include a traditional Hawaiian luau featuring the ukulele and vocal stylings of Sweet Aloha Ukulele with hula performances by Lyndon Onaka and Tanya Hacket and slack key by Kaleo. “It’s fun and a good time, come and see what is happening,” encourages Fisher.
Located 20 minutes east of Bend, the Runway Ranch will offer rustic tent and RV campsites (no electric or water) for those wishing to spend the weekend.
Cost is $35 per adult for three day festival admission, Children under age 14 admitted free with an adult. Camping is $10 per site for the entire weekend (Friday night to Sunday morning), Friday Night Luau is $16 per adult with purchase of three day festival ticket, $10 per child ages 5 – 14 when accompanying adults with three day festival ticket and $25 per adult for Luau and entertainment only, $12 per child ages 5 – 14 for Luau and entertainment only.
Bend Ukulele Group has a weekly uke jam every Tuesday at 6:30pm at Broken Top Bottle Shop, 1740 NE Pence Lane.