Ukuleles strike chord in Geraldine

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Hugh and Fi McCafferty.

It started with a church band and a child and a ukulele.

Now it is a festival set to fill Geraldine with musicians and music fans.

Welcome to Ukefest 2017 (July 6-9), an all-strumming and singing festival for which 300 people have pre-booked.

Such is the popularity of the festival, all based on the humble ukulele and fun, that if it grows much more it will test the town’s infrastructure.

The festival is the work of Hugh and Fi McCafferty.

It has grown so much that planning for Ukefest 2018 is under way and thought is also given to Ukefest 2019.

It began simply.

Hugh was running a church band and the vicar’s daughter asked if she could play her ukulele.

”Sure,” said Hugh.

”We then thought that if we were going to teach her to play, we had better learn ourselves.”

They did.

“From there we got competitive. We already played the guitar.”

Then a Wellington ukulele band came to town and it was a sell-out.

“There was such interest. We ran two lots of 10 lessons , and then we had a group, the Geraldine Ukulele Jam, and they are still going strong.”

Then came the Mid Winter Ukulele Extravaganza, and the following year The Big Strum.

After that local musician Kane Tarres “decided we needed a festival”.

Says Fi: “We got 100 to the Big Strum and we thought ‘wow’, now we have 300 pre-booked.

This year’s festival includes international acts – Bryan Tolentino and Halehaku Seabury, of Hawaii – a host of workshops, street banners (most funded by the community), and strong community involvement.

To help the party atmosphere, cafes will open earlier and stay open later and ukulele players will provide the music.

“It’s grown from year to year. We are starting to attract international acts, and they need lead-in time.

“The focus for us is giving folk the chance to pick up a ukulele and have a good time with it.

There will be lots of open mic sessions, plus we have the guns coming,” Hugh said.