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Turn it Down! Mighty Uke Day Festival

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Sunday, March 24 @ Lansing Brewing Company, 518 E. Shiawassee St, Lansing.

$10 suggested donation, 2 p.m.-6 p.m.

Mighty Uke Day, the annual event dedicated to celebrating the ukulele, hosts its annual FUNdraiser March 24 at the Lansing Brewing Company. According to Ben Hassenger, aka “Michigan’s Ukulele Ambassador,” the fundraiser helps raise the operating capital needed to kick off their May festival.

This year, the daytime FUNdraiser features live performances from The Ukulele Kings, Hedda & the Skat Kats, The Springtails, Sylvie Keckeisen, the PT Strummers and various Michigan uke groups. Attendees can also partake in group strums, a silent auction, and more. The $10 suggested donation not only supports the festival but also Music is the Foundation, a nonprofit that offers programs in Michigan classrooms and communities.

Hassenger said he first got hooked in 2009 when he was vacationing in Hawaii and happened upon a jovial uke festival.

“There were a few hundred people having the time of their lives,” Hassenger said. “I immediately emailed Stan Werbin, the owner of Elderly instruments and a long-time ukulele proponent, and told him I wanted to bring some of that joy back home. We got the Lansing Area Ukulele Group (LAUGH) started that fall and it all snowballed from there.”

“When we started LAUGH in 2009,” he added. “We were only the second ukulele group in the state — the other was in Ann Arbor. Being located in the center of the Lower Peninsula, people came from other cities across the state and then went home and started their own groups. We now have over 30 such groups in what I like to call ‘The Great Uke State,’ including four or five in the Upper Peninsula.”

In 2011, after the success of LAUGH, Hassenger launched Mighty Uke Day as a one-off screening of “The Mighty Uke,” and paired it with an open mic at Sir Pizza Grand Café. Since then, Mighty Uke Day has evolved into a two-and-a-half-day festival held at various locations across Old Town. The festival includes live performances, workshops, open mics, group strums, children’s activities and more. During the evening, concerts are held in Dart Auditorium in cooperation with LCC Radio WLNZ.

“A few hundred people come from across the Midwest and Canada,” Hassenger said. “We are able to attract the top talent in the ukulele universe.”

Mighty Uke Day, now the Midwest’s largest ukulele festival, hosts its ninth annual event May 10-12. The featured headliners are The Naked Waiters and Danielle Ate the Sandwich. Opening acts include; Steven Espaniola, Cynthia Kinnunen, Matt Dahlberg and Abigail Stauffer.

With a healthy dose of national talent, Hassenger and the ‘Mighty Uke’ team want an equal emphasis on rising, local talent.

“Mighty Uke Day is a crazy mess of fun,” Hassenger said. “There are free beginners workshops for adults and kids, along with opportunities to learn from the top teaching artists in the world. You can get up and strut your stuff at our open mic, join in on group strums and then listen to amazing performers at Dart Auditorium.”

The full lineup, tickets and more are available at mightyukeday.com. Updates can also be found on their Facebook page, facebook.com/mightyukedayfestival.

For those who cannot attend the FUNdraiser at the Lansing Brewing Company, check donations can be made out to “Music is the Foundation” and mailed to 749 Cleo Street, Lansing, MI 48915.

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