By ROB W. ANDERSON
Twice a year, Western Hills Lodge at Sequoyah State Park becomes sort of a grand central station for string music players and fans.
The two-day Music Fest is hosted by the Oklahoma State Fiddlers Convention, and musicians come from all over the country to sit in and play with family, friends or new acquaintances who share the love of country and western swing music.
Oklahoma State Fiddlers President Kent Harrison grew up playing music, and enjoys playing fiddle, guitar or mandolin with any group he sits in with at the Fort Gibson Lake-side event.
“This is about having fun. Nobody gets paid not one darn cent,” he said. “Some come from different states. In fact, we get them from several different states and sometimes foreign countries.”
The daytime activities are free to the public, while the nightly dances that feature four country western swing bands are just $5.
The Western Swing Music Society of the Southwest co-hosts the Music Fest, and WSMSS Officer Hack Starbuck said people who haven’t been to the event are missing out on a good time and good family music.
“They will hear anything from just a shade of bluegrass to western swing music,” he said. “And the old fiddle tunes. Our society is for the preservation of western swing music and we co-host with the fiddlers union and support them. They support us. We have a good family relationship. If they’ve seen you a second time and don’t give you a big hug, something’s wrong. It’s just that type of people and that kind of relationship.”
Muskogee mandolin player Mark Downing is a regular at the Western Hills Lodge affair, and said attending OSF events is like going to a family reunion.
“We know everybody and everybody knows us,” he said. “We’re here to just jam. It’s kind of a fun way to [spend your retirement].”
Fellow OSF event fan and Tulsa guitar player Pete Walker said he and Downing enjoy playing with folks, but part of the entertainment is getting to hear all the great musicians.
“We listen more than we play,” he said. “Before the day’s over, there’ll be five, six or eight pickup groups of people playing. They have the dance and the stage show. This room here is a lot of country, and they have another room that’s swing music. And then just acoustic jam sessions all over the place.”
Skiatook fiddle player Hayden Bramlett said he likes to learn new songs when attends the OSF Music Fest.
“It’s just about playing tunes and having some fun,” he said.
Shelley Williams, who is a fiddle player from Manford, said she appreciates the family-friendly environment the event offers.
“It’s just something wholesome to do,” she said. “It’s something to pass on to your kids.”
Vian fiddler player Charles Davis was raised on country and bluegrass music and enjoys sharing the confines of Western Hills Lodge with like-minded folks.
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