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Austin may call itself the “Live Music Capital of the World”, but San Antonio is undoubtedly the “Ukulele Capital of Texas”. Before the now-unstoppable tsunami of ukuleles hit peak popularity in America, the south-central city known for the Alamo, great Tex-Mex food and miles-long River Walk was one of the first places in the U.S. to implement a ukulele festival.
Back in 2002, when the humble uke was used more as comedic relief and play toys than a serious instrument in America, San Antonio started the annual Texas Uke Fest. The three-day event (the only one in Texas at the time) celebrated all things ukulele, with hundreds of people travelling to Lions Field recreation centre each year to participate in a busy schedule of live performances, workshops for all levels of playing ability, and a variety of uke-loving vendors.
Now, in a time where the ukulele is riding a wave of popularity as the trendiest instrument for everyone to learn, the city is becoming even better known for its uke-related passion – and at no time is this more evident than during the Once-A-Month Ukulele Jam.
Held at the Lion’s Field each month, the group is lead by Beverly Gagliardi, who has been in charge of the uke meet up for several years. The club focuses on all levels of players. All you have to do is show up with your ukulele and a smile.
While the city’s main events are recurring, San Antonio does also play host to a few special performances too. In 2018, the Texas town will welcome ukulele’s most famous virtuoso, Jake Shimabukuro. For just under $50 (or $85 if you’re looking for prime seating and a meet and greet with Jake), ticket holders can listen live to one of the world’s most renowned ukulele players in the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater.
The same year, Jason Mraz – most famously known for ‘I’m Yours’, one of the most-covered songs on ukulele – will also be visiting the theatre.
In the middle of their two performances (Jake Shimabukuro is set to perform in June, while Jason Mraz will perform in March) is the Alamo Aloha Festival. The only statewide cultural festival in the United States, the Aloha Festivals are an annual series of free cultural celebrations observed in the state of Hawaii. It features parades, street parties, concerts, vendors and various other special events.
The Alamo Aloha Festival in particular – held around April of each year – features Islander food, entertainment (expect some ukes!), and fire dancers. In 2018, the event will be celebrating its 22nd annual Aloha Festival at the Traders Village in San Antonio.
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