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Annual Dulcimer Festival successful in new location

MORRIS – By plane, train or automobile, Diane Ippel was going to find her way back to Morris to participate in the 25th annual Gebhard Woods Dulcimer & Traditional Music Festival.

Ippel organized and established the Hammers and Noters Dulcimer Society of Illinois in 1985. From that group Ippel took on the job of organizing the first festival in 1988 and continued to do so for the first 10 years, and continues to provide oversight from her California home, where she moved about five years ago.

But this year she ran into some trouble even getting to Morris. She loaded her car and set out to cross the country with her dulcimer when her check engine light went on.

“I’m so grateful to be here,” Ippel said. “Twenty-five years is a long time to devote to something.”

She said a good Samaritan put her in a hotel while her car was being looked at. The manager of the auto shop asked her to play in his office for his employees and customers.

“He said the only way I was going to get here was to fly, this person said, ‘book a flight,’ and helped me get here,” she said.

While Ippel knew she was the featured artist closing out the festival Sunday, she had no idea she would be receiving a plaque for her service to the festival.

“We want to honor her for all she’s done,” Steve Karlovsky, 2014 festival coordinator said. “We will present her with a plaque and thank her for starting this festival.”

Ippel said she may have been the spark plug in the engine of the Dulcimer Festival, but it’s the thousands of volunteers throughout the years that make it happen.

While the festival is named the Gebhard Woods Dulcimer & Traditional Music Festival, it took place this year at Goold Park in Morris. Festival organizers had to cancel last year’s festival because of damage to Gebhard Woods from flooding, and determined after visiting it again this year they needed to give it more time to heal, so activities were moved to the first weekend in June at Goold Park.

“I think it’s going well,” Karlovsky said Saturday. “We’ve had a strong attendance today and people seem to like the location.”

He said the organization will make a decision later this year about whether the festival can return to Gebhard Woods next year.

The dulcimer is a popular folk instrument, compatible with mandolin and guitar, that is often wooden and stringed. It can be played a variety of ways, but is commonly played by plucking or striking the strings with mallets.

The festival had five tents spaced throughout the park where festival-goers could participate in workshops learning how to play new songs, different styles, and how to barn dance.

Workshops were held for different levels of players from beginners to advanced.

Glen Scratchley of Springfield said he has been to the festival in the past and was excited to return. Many of the major festivals are out of state and he can’t get the time off work to attend those, so he’s grateful for the weekend festival in Morris.

Tracey Schwalbe attended Ippel’s workshop after traveling from Wisconsin.

“I’ve come to play with others who play the dulcimer,” she said. “It’s fun to get together with other people.”

She didn’t know what to expect when she decided to visit Morris for the festival.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many dulcimer players together in one place,” Schwalbe said.

Those wishing to perform were welcomed to the new talent stage where people gathered to listen to the traditional music they presented.

Every hour a new musician took the main stage playing for the crowd gathered.

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