The story stretches from Austria to Wakarusa, Ind.
The former is where Kerry Christensen got inspired. The latter is where he’ll showcase his talent this weekend.
Christensen is a professional yodeler, and one of several acts scheduled to appear during the three-day run of the ninth annual Wakarusa Bluegrass Festival. He’ll lead a workshop in addition to performing. Other artists on the bill include Tommy Webb Band, Lilly Mountaineers, Rock Island Plow Company, Volume Five and Meyer Bluegrass Band.
Why yodeling? A change of scenery factored in for Christensen. His family is German-Swiss-Austrian, and he ended up living in Austria for a time after high school.
“I got interested in the yodeling while there,” Christensen said, “and then I went back to my dad’s potato farm in Idaho and started messing around with the yodeling on the tractors, going around and around the fields 16 hours a day.”
Christensen said he enjoys yodeling because it’s like singing jazz.
“You can do anything you want with it as long as you’re willing to put yourself out there and do different things,” he said. “...I might take a Chinese song or a Japanese song or Cajun or something, and then I yodel patterns that fit the style of music.” In the bluegrass realm, for example, he’s done that with “Rocky Top.”
“To me, anything goes,” he said.
In addition to yodeling, festival attendees can also learn about the mountain dulcimer. Doug Earnhart and his wife Dusty will be conducting workshops on the instrument Friday afternoon.
Doug Earnhart said he got started playing the dulcimer around 17 years ago.
“My wife did it,” he said with a laugh. “It’s her fault.” Doug explained that his wife bought a dulcimer, and he started playing around with it. She told him to get his own.
Come Friday, the duo will be sharing what they’ve learned about mountain dulcimers with the curious.
“It’s not hard to play at all,” Doug said.
Earnhart said he’s always loved folk and bluegrass and country music. Count him as a fan, too, of the Wakarusa Bluegrass Festival.
“There’s lots of good booths and display and people to talk to,” he said, “and of course the music’s outstanding.”
If you want to go
The Wakarusa Bluegrass Festival grounds are located at 66425 Ind. 19, south of East Waterford Street (C.R. 40). Free parking and “primitive camping” are available, and attendees are invited to bring a lawn chair. This year, festival organizers are honoring Clyde Carr and the Hymn-Tymers gospel band for making music in the Michiana area for more than 40 years.
The daily festival schedule includes:
Friday: Mountain dulcimer workshops are planned from 2:30 to 4 p.m., and a yodeling workshop from 4:15 to 5:45 p.m. Workshops cost $5 to participate. A free open mic bluegrass jam starts at 6 p.m.
Saturday: Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with music throughout the day. Tickets are $15 at the gate. Veterans with military identification will be admitted free, as will children age 12 and younger. Veterans will be honored mid-afternoon. Food and beverage vendors will be on hand.
Sunday: A bluegrass gospel service starts at 10 a.m., followed by a potluck lunch at noon and jamming in the afternoon until 4 p.m.