Jeffery Olsen and David Manoa perform at the Utah Ukulele Festival at Willow Park on Saturday. 

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Saturday morning people of all ages gathered at Willow Park for the annual Utah Ukulele Festival. Some were locals, but others traveled from out of town to join the festivities.

The event featured live music, open mic competitions and free lessons in both ukulele playing and hula dancing. The first lesson of the day helped beginning players learn the song, “You Are My Sunshine.”

“It is very fun. It is a lot easier than the guitar for me,” said Laurel Parkinson, one of the workshop participants. “It is interesting because I have sung a lot in my life in high school and community choirs. But here, you have to not only sing, but you have to play the chord as well as know where it is and know strumming, so it is a lot. It is not an easy project.”

Parkinson was gifted a ukulele by her husband a year and a half ago. She has been taking lessons in American Fork and attended other ukulele festivals, but this was her first year coming to the one in Logan.

“With working and everything, it makes it hard to practice, but it is worth it,” Parkinson said.

The Utah Ukulele festival was started in 2013 by Jeffery Olsen with David and Denelle Manoa. In the past seven years, it has grown from an festival the group paid for out of pocket to a sponsored event.

“It is a little surreal,” David said.

David said he has been especially touched by the attention they have received from multiple major ukulele companies.

Over the years, the festival turnout has grown. The Manoas said they plan for about 1,000-2,000 people to come over the course of the whole day. While some parts of the event are slower, they said they love the calm feeling the festival has.

“It would be nice to have a little bit larger crowd throughout the day, just to help support the vendors and keep them coming back and make them want to keep coming back,” Denelle said. “But I like it just the way it is, because it is very hometown-feel, very laid-back, family-oriented.”

One of the bands who played at Saturday’s event, the Naked Waiters, had attended the festival last year while on their way to play at Raspberry Days. The group of friends met while going to school in Cedar City and started playing together five years ago.

“We just love uke festivals. Every uke fest you can ever go to, you have to,” said Clark Holmes, one of the band members.

Holmes said one of his favorite parts of the festival was the elements of Hawaiian culture that were incorporated into it.

“A lot of them are folk or just a different style,” Holmes said. “But here, people are trying to bring the Hawaiian feel and that’s cool.”

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