A Blizzard of Ukes at the Great Minnesota Ukulele Gathering

By Jim D’Ville

Neither snow nor rain nor Minnesota’s first blizzard of the impending winter could stay over 100 hearty ukulele players from attending The Great Minnesota Ukulele Gathering, held November 18 and 19 in Minneapolis. The event, produced under the auspices of the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old Time Association, was thankfully held indoors at the spacious West Minneapolis Marriott Hotel as temperatures plunged into the teens aided by an icy 40-mile-per-hour wind. GMUG is held in conjunction with The Harvest Jam, a three-day music festival featuring regional bands performing bluegrass, old time string-band, and related forms of acoustic music rendering the hotel a buzzing beehive of vibrating strings.

Photo by Tony Anthonien.

The ukulele festival kicked off on Friday night with a Uke By Ear jam I led with performances by Twin Cities band Ukulele Drive and THUG — the Two Harbors Ukulele Group from up Lake Superior way. The THUGs deserved a medal simply for making it to the the festival as they drove down from north of Duluth where up to four feet of snow fell on Friday.


Saturday was jam packed with activities including four workshops, an open-mic session and lots of jamming. More then 30 lucky uke players won Waterman ukuleles donated to the festival by event co-sponsor Kala Brand Music. Organizer Tony Anthonisen said of the event, “The Fall GMUG showcased the very active ukulele scene here in Minnesota. From the far north of the state to down south, the enthusiasm for ukulele playing is great. We also had a number of ukers from Wisconsin and Iowa in attendance.”

Watermen. Photo by Tony Anthonien.
Winners with their prize Watermen ukuleles. Photo by Tony Anthonien.

The Great Minnesota Ukulele Gathering will return in the Fall of 2017 for another upper Mid-Western ukulele hootenanny. You may even spot a viking or two!

Tuning time. Photo by David Reminger.
Tuning time. Photo by David Reminger.

Music educator and facilitator Jim D’Ville is the author of the Play Ukulele By Ear DVD series and hosts the popular Play Ukulele By Ear website www.PlayUkuleleByEar.com.