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Children ran, weaving their way through inviting booths with painted faces and homemade banjos along the river shoreline. The high, lonesome sounds of bluegrass music accompanied their play in the heat of the seventh annual Ogden Music Festival.
Hidden over the bridge from the city feel of Historic 25th Street, the festival echoed through Fort Buenaventura State Park just outside downtown Ogden, a venue with campgrounds, trails, canoeing and fairgrounds.
The music festival was presented by Ogden Friends of Acoustic Music, an organization that not only strives to provide live music to Ogden but also supports and encourages music education in youth. On the edge of the river were booths designed for children, including crafts, face painting and the Musical Petting Zoo.
Todd Crowley, a musician and music lover from Pennsylvania has been collecting folk instruments for 20 years and has been sharing his instruments with his traveling Musical Petting Zoo in festivals for the past seven.
A variety of percussion, string and woodwinds were displayed while anyone from toddlers to adults was allowed to pick one up and play.
“The idea is for kids to have a good time,” Crowley said, “to at least get their hands on the instruments, then hopefully they’ll end up playing them later. That’s how it starts.”
His Musical Petting Zoo provides a unique opportunity for children to explore music.
“It’s the only time they can really experiment with an instrument, unlike at a music store,” Crowley said.
Children took advantage, banging on a xylophone or fiddling with a mandolin.
The stage was surrounded by local vendors and sponsors, including Grounds for Coffee, Alpine Sports and Only in Ogden. People gathered under canopies and in lawn chairs, kicking back after hitting Roosters Brewing Co. booth, and listened to the acoustic tunes.
The band Sweet Water Crossing opened the show. Members ranging from ages 14 to 17 played lively music with traditional bluegrass instruments, even giving The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” a bluegrass twist.
First-time festival goers and volunteers Jen Anaya and her daughter Kerissa, who attended the festival with Anaya’s granddaughter Eloise, stayed at the campground the weekend of the festival with other musicians.
“The musicians were playing until 2 this morning,” Anaya said. “It was really nice, I liked it. . . . The music and camping are great.”
Kerissa expressed how the young band Sweet Water Crossing was on her list of favorite performances.
“Della Mae and Sweet Water Crossing are really good,” she said.
Kerissa said she loved that Eloise was able to touch the instruments.
“I love to make music,” interrupted the toddler as she plucked the strings of the bass.
Anaya said they’ll definitely come back next year.
Around 3 p.m. an anticipated band, The Steel Wheels from Virginia, put on a music workshop inside the campgrounds. They played their latest material, including a harmonious acapella song titled “Highest Mountain.”
The workshop was personal and interactive, encouraging questions as the band members explained their experience in the songwriting process and music production.
“It’s been a lot of fun!” said Steel Wheels lead singer Trent Wagler. “Most festivals, obviously your first impression is the setting, and you couldn’t get a better place than this park and the mountains. It’s been absolutely beautiful.”