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South Florida Ukulele Festival 2014 Proves Ukes Rule This Weekend

The sound of the ukulele simply harkens Jazz Age college swains courting flapper damsels in canoes or Tiny Tim on The Tonight Show (and where is Miss Vickie now)? Wrong.

There's a whole lot more to the teeny, tiny instrument than fits the stereotype, according to the folks at the Florida Ukulele Network (F.U.N.), and they're out to prove it this weekend at their Third Annual South Florida Ukulele Festival.

See also: Ten Famous Fans of the Ukulele

Tomorrow night at Artserve in Fort Lauderdale, the festival kicks off with a meet-up, concert and jam session. Saturday morning and afternoon will offer a full slate of workshops; that evening there's a concert including guest ukulele artists from around the nation and local adepts from Pacific Rhythms.

F.U.N., which now boasts almost 500 members, was started in 2009 by Ty Olopais, originally from Saipan and now a Hollywood resident. Laura Sturaitis, a F.U.N. board member, describes him as "our Johnny Appleseed. He sort of kicked off the whole craze here." (Check out the video, below.)

Sturaitis, a business executive, said her uke interest "sort of fell from the sky." An instrumentalist since her youth, a few years ago she decided to "exercise that muscle again."

"One day my husband sent me a link to a video of Jake Shimabukuro, who's like the Eric Clapton of ukulele. He was playing 'Bohemian Rhapsody,'" Sturaitis told New Times. "Four strings, two octaves and the guy made this incredible performance."

Later that week Sturaitis bought a $28 ukulele over the Internet. She boned up on instructional videos, hooked up with local music store Penny Lane, and the rest is history. "It's a fantastic addition to my life," she told us. "And a huge stress relief. It's just a very happy instrument."

South Florida Ukulele Fest 2014. 7 p.m., Friday, March 28 to 10 p.m., Saturday, March 29, at ArtServe, 1350 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Schedule and more info here.

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