By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The American Banjo Museum, located at 9 E. Sheridan Avenue in the historic Bricktown district of downtown Oklahoma City, will host its inaugural Americana Fest on Saturday, June 18 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“This is the first event of this type that we’ve ever done and the first family oriented musical event in Bricktown in quite some time,” said Johnny Baier, ABM executive director.
“We’ve put together a wonderful line-up of live music and family-friendly activities and are really excited to invite everyone to join us for a great time.”
Music will be provided on multiple stages by local artists including Willow Way, the Bread & Butter Band, and Memphis’ own Side Street Steppers. Also scheduled to appear is KAUT-TV’s Lucas Ross who will be performing for the kids on a special outdoor stage.
There will be crafts and “hands on” musical activities for the kids, summertime treats for everyone, as well as door prizes – including the grand prize of a Deering Goodtime Banjo.
“At the American Banjo Museum, the artistry that goes into crafting highly ornate instruments and the skill and talent that goes into playing them is on full display,” Baier said. “ The ABM brings history and art together in a song hundreds of years in the making.”
Originally located in Guthrie, Oklahoma, the ABM was founded as a nonprofit organization in 1998 by Midwest City attorney, Brady Hunt and Indiana industrialist, Jack Canine. It was first named The National Four-String Banjo Hall of Fame Museum.
The museum is home to the largest collection of banjos on public display in the world. Examples include replicas of primitive banjos developed by African slaves in the Old South, Minstrel Age instruments from 19th century, post WWII instruments used in bluegrass, folk and world music, and a collection of ornately decorated banjos made in America during the Jazz Age of the 1920’s and 30s.
A special gallery features a large collection of Gibson Mastertone banjos manufactured during the 1920s and 30s, including a rare, pre-war Gibson five-string banjo valued at more than $175,000.
The second floor displays the museum’s centerpiece collection of more than 200 four-string banjos from the Jazz Era of banjo music. Each of theses banjos is a work of art, demonstrating the craftsmanship and dedication of the artisans who created them nearly a century ago.
“Originally the Museum was founded by and primarily for enthusiasts and players of the four-string banjo, the predominate stringed instrument associated with the jazz age of the 1920s and early 30s,” said Baier.
Museum hours are Tuesday- Saturday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sunday Noon – 5 p.m. Closed Mondays. Admission to the museum and for the George Peabody event is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors (+55), military and students; children (5-17) $4, and children (under 5) are free.
“There are always a lot of interesting things going on here,” said Baier. “Based on the fact that most people aren’t banjo players and can’t possibly anticipate what they’re going to see when they get here. We’ve been so fortunate to be able to create such a nice and modern presentation of around 300 banjos. It’s kind of surprising to a lot of folks.”
Americana Fest tickets, which include all shows and food, are $10 for adults, children 15 and under are free with a paid adult.
For more information, or to become a member of the American Banjo Museum, visit americanbanjomuseum.com or call 405-604-2793.