In its 12th year of existence as a festival in Port Allen, the Lagniappe Dulcimer Fete, a festival celebrating the dulcimer, proved once again that is one of the premiere fests of its kind in the region.
In one of the largest Lagniappe Dulcimer Fetes to date, hundreds of dulcimer enthusiasts from around the country filled the WBR Museum, Port Allen Community Center and the American Legion Hall with not only warm bodies, but also with warm music as sessions took place from Thursday to Sunday of last week.
“We seem to have a bigger festival (than normal); a little bigger turnout. And we have a little more of a variety,” said Peggy Broussard, festival co-director. “We’ve had to use the American Legion Hall this year. It’s like having to having to add extra spaces. We have seven classes going every time we have class, and that’s not always the case.”
The mountain dulcimer is a fretted string instrument typically with three or four strings. Its origins are in the Appalachian region of the United States. The body extends the length of the fingerboard, and its fretting is generally diatonic.
The hammered dulcimer is also a stringed instrument, but the strings are stretched over a trapezoidal sounding board. Typically, the hammered dulcimer is set on a stand at an angle before the musician, who holds small mallet hammers in each hand to strike the strings.
Broussard said that the variety of people, music and classes at this year’s festival made it special.
She said that several families came with younger children who were learning to play the dulcimer, which brought an age variety to the fest.
“Kids are learning to play instruments and it’s wonderful,” Broussard said. “We always try to get more and more young people involved.”
She said that she believed that the dulcimer and the music most often associated with the instrument appeals mostly to older people, though she has noticed some younger generations finding an interest in the instrument.
“Some of the young teachers - they play it like a guitar. They’re just jamming away and it’s wonderful,” she said.
Classes took place throughout the four-day festival that taught basic to advanced music skills in a variety of instruments, such as the mandolin, banjo and harmonica as well as the bowed dulcimer, hammered dulcimer, mountain dulcimer, bass dulcimer and more.
During jam sessions, where musicians sit and simply play music together, several other instruments are pulled out and played.
Broussard, during a jam session in the Port Allen Community Center, pointed out a man saying that he played a myriad of instruments including the penny whistle, saxophone and steel drum.
“And we play all kinds of music,” she said. “We play Irish music, Cajun music, we play country, we play rock, we play Mardi Gras, we play blues and jazz.”
She said that people participating in the fest came from all over Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama and more.
“It’s grown every year. And I keep saying if it gets any bigger I don’t know if we can handle it!” she said with a smile. “The classes are getting bigger and the people… everybody is saying ‘oh we hear about your festival. We want to come.’
“It’s just fun. It’s fun to meet different people from different states because they have different kinds of music.”
The Lagniappe Dulcimer Fete is an annual event in Port Allen put on by the Lagniappe Dulcimer Society, which has members throughout the Greater Baton Rouge area.
Lagniappe Dulcimer Society meets each Monday at the Community Bible Church in Baton Rouge on Jefferson Ave at 6 p.m.