One of the highlights of each year’s Reno Uke Fest is the ukulele raffle. While a lot of festival traditions started off modestly, this one started with a BANG! At the first festival in Minden, in 2009, ukemaker extraordinaire Mike DaSilva (www.ukemaker.com) made a gorgeous concert-sized instrument that he donated for that first raffle. It was the last raffle prize to be drawn, after a bunch of nice accessories, and couple of cool production ukes. (I won a uke. A nice Lehua soprano now played by my son-in-law.)
Each year the raffle gets bigger and bigger, with more than 20 ukuleles being given away to lucky winners (along with CDs, songbooks, and lots of other cool stuff). And the number of one-off custom ukes in the raffle has grown as well. Last year’s top ukes included not only another Mike DaSilva, but also ukes from Mya-Moe and David Iriguchi. (Since 2009 I haven’t won another uke, but I’ve won some fun tee-shirts, mouse pads, and always-useful electronic tuners.)
A small number of raffle tickets come with registration, with many more purchased at the festival. (Frequently by hotel guests who have no connection to the festival, but have learned that the festival’s raffle has much better odds than any of the gaming tables and machines downstairs in the Nugget’s casino.)
And where does the money go? Glad you asked. The money raised from the raffle goes into making the following year’s festival even bigger and even better.
Even though he certainly deserves it for everything he does for the ukulele community, PlayUke’s Doug Reynolds does not drive a big Cadillac or live in a mansion in the Malibu Hills. The money goes back into making Reno a grand, exciting, but very affordable, festival.
(And speaking of grand and exciting, check out today’s photo, above. There’s nothing cooler than having Victoria Vox smiling down from the Nugget’s gigantic billboard on every trucker heading east or west on busy, transcontinental, Interstate 80.)