The idea for the Utah Ukulele Festival® (UUF) started in December 2012 as a collaboration between Jeffrey Olsen and David Manoa. Jeff had attended BYU Hawaii and fell in love with the Hawaiian culture and the ukulele. By the time he moved to Cache Valley to complete doctoral studies at Utah State University, he had been playing the ukulele, among other instruments, for a few years. David moved to Cache Valley to attend Utah State University a few years earlier, and this is where the two would meet. David enjoyed playing electric and acoustic guitar, as well as the ukulele. His dad was born and raised on Maui and would play the ukulele often while listening to his old Hawaiian records. Music was a very strong influence in both Jeff and David’s lives early on. Both being involved in community organizations, establishing one with this unique spin seemed both natural and a positive way of promoting the culture, music, and spirit of the islands to the valley.
The two decided to hit the ground running and began the necessary steps to develop the Utah Ukulele Festival with the help of family and friends. David’s wife Denelle, with her awesome organizational skills, decided to jump in and help provide assistance in order to keep things running smoothly. The group decided early on that the event would need to be free to the public (ukulele lessons, entertainment, and any other activities that might develop as part of the festival) as a way to give back to the community and share a bit of aloha spirit with all who would attend. Spreading aloha with attendees was also a big focus for the event coordinators David, Jeff, and Denelle. Placing focus on the history of the ukulele and it’s Hawaiian ancestry was very important to them, and every year they strive to showcase a portion of the beautiful culture associated with the ukulele and Hawaii.
Soon the group started to see the event take shape. The first Utah Ukulele Festival® took place on August 1 & 2, 2013, and went off without without a hitch, piquing the interest of many fellow ukulele enthusiasts in and around Utah. The trio did not anticipate a large crowd to attend between the two day event in the first year of operation. Over 2000+ people flowed through the course of the two days. Attendees purchased food, participated in the various workshops, lessons, and activities, and stayed for the performances that took place on the main stage throughout the day. The success of the event prompted Jeff, David, and Denelle to immediately start planning for the next year’s event.
From that point on the coordinators have opened the festival each year. They talk story and play fun songs that engage the crowd and start the festivities off on a bright note. This allows them to turn the time over to other local and out-of-state talent. An added focus for the event became their Open Mic Competition. Providing a light for other talented individuals and offering them an opportunity to shine has become a mainstay in each year’s festival lineup. The coordinators do not look for time to showcase their own talents, but they offer others opportunities to share their amazing talent in a setting in which most do not have the opportunity to participate.
Every year the Utah Ukulele Festival coordinators continue to make it a personal goal to provide a free event to the public, as well as bring in great talent, provide fun educational classes, and offer opportunities to connect with other ukulele enthusiasts throughout the community. UUF constantly strives to share the Spirit of Aloha as well as a bit of the Hawaiian culture with the public to strengthen the bonds of community and provide cultural awareness. The Utah Ukulele Festival is proud to share its love of the ukulele and Hawaiian culture with all. We hope to see you out at our event soon!