Welcome to Ukulele World Congress! We’re happy to have ya!
UWC is a yearly festival put on for free in Needmore Indiana by Mike and Tootka Hater of Mainland Ukuleles, along with a small, but enthusiastic group of volunteers. Folks have been streaming to the field since 2008 when Mainland Mike first issued an invitation to camp there. It’s an organic event, with very little structure. The only things that are scheduled to happen are the Thursday night cocktail party, Friday potluck dinner, Friday open mic that goes from 5pm-ish, the group picture on Saturday, and a final open mic on Saturday night. The rest of the time on the field is spent gathering with friends and jamming. Believe us when we say that it’s the friendliest community that you’ll ever happen upon.
The main rules are:
Don’t be a jerk, don’t let your friends be jerks, don’t let your kids be jerks
No dogs (seriously, don’t bring ’em)
No firearms or fireworks
Open mic: 2 songs, no sneaky stuff
Where is UWC?
It’s in the middle of a field in Needmore, Indiana, just outside of Nashville.
Where do people stay?
The festival is held in a large open field with a large fire pit, a stage, NS some event tents. Most people stay in tents on the field. Camping is primitive, so you’ll have to pack in your own water and be prepared for port-a-potties. Small campers are welcome on the back field – when it rains, it can get tricky getting out. If you’re not feeling the field vibe, you can find accommodations in nearby Nashville, IN. Be aware that most cell phones do not work on the field. Stay up to date by following our Facebook Page.
PRO TIP: People staying at the field are welcome to go use the YMCA or the Lake Lemon marina to shower. On the first Saturday of the month, showers are free at the Y!
Nice ta meet ya attitude
Food for the Friday potluck
Money for the raffles (the event is free, and money from the raffles offsets the cost)
Folding campfire chair
Copious amounts of water
Solar lights to mark tent stakes
Bug and tick lotion
Port-a-potty kit (compostable wipes, extra tp, disinfectant spray, hand sanitizer)
Regional Beer for trading (optional)
If you forget something, head into town where you will find:
The Dollar Tree
The ice dispenser by the McDonalds
Who will you meet at UWC?
One of the key ingredients that makes UWC so awesome is the diversity of the people that come from, literally, all over the world. It is also the diversity of the types that come too that make it a great event for any type of ukulele person.
The Beginner – Lots of folks have just gotten the ukulele bug, and just want to be around people who love it as much as they do. The great part? Newbies will be cheered on and encouraged as much as longtimers. Maybe even more? Make a mistake on stage? No worries, just take a breath and try again!
The Musician – These people are by and large professional musicians. They come to hang out and play with everyone, and usually end up teaching people some new stuff. The musicians that come know that there are a ton of us that are not that good, but they love to play with us and lead songs and blow us away when they get on stage.
Makers/Sellers – Although Mainland Ukes puts this on, other makers and vendors are welcome to come as long as they don’t sell anything. It’s a great place to talk to folks about different ukuleles and nerd out.
Clubs/Groups – I would say that UWC is a major reunion event for Ukulele Underground members. A lot of the people that come are part of the UU and come to hang out with and play with all the crazy people they chat with throughout the year. Others are from the UWC facbook page, or local clubs. Lots of clubs camp together in compounds. They are all super friendly, so don’t hesitate to pull up a camp chair and sit a spell.
Players – While at the field it is a constant group jam. Someone picks a song and everyone plays and sings. Sometimes they play uke or dare. One person sings then points to the next person to play, if they don’t , they have to do a dare (Everyone plays usually). at some point this is what you end up doing if you play ukulele.
Spouse/friends – People that do not play ukulele…..yet. Since this is a haul for some they bring a friend or a loved one on the trip. They don’t play ukulele when they get there, but I would say about 50% do when they leave. They usually are standing and watching or in the crowd waiting for their person to get on stage to make sure they clap the loudest.
Kids/Young/Old – There is an age range from 7-97 that come. It is a different experience for all of them. The Young peeps and the blue hairs (Old people) mingle and intertwine. If you are a young shy person or a loner old goat, you will not hang out or meet a lot of people, but if you are a crazy energetic young thing like Bonita, then you stay up til 4am. Age makes no difference at this thing.
Should you bring your kids? Yes, maybe, no, I guess it depends on your family. This is not Disney world. It is not setup for kids. There were kids there, and they had a good time, but if you don’t think your kids should be exposed to some adult things, like swearing ), people drinking in excess, or people enjoying various things that they can smoke (Cigars, pipes, cigarettes, whatever is hand rolled and passed around a circle) then I would not bring the kids.
At 10pm that the songs become adult themed. Also by that time the beer has started to kick in and it does get a little looser. It’s a good time to head to the back field where lyrics are more muddled, or to an offsite cabin.
There is an unwritten rule around the field that kids should be respectful of the adults. Don’t be surprised if your child is redirected if they are rude or destructive. And don’t be defensive if a child is returned to you if they are in need of some parental guidance. There are many kids that have grown up on the field – they know where to find all the cool geodes, and they’ve grown up to be super interesting people. It can be a grand place as long as you have realistic expectations.
UWC takes place on two adjoining fields in the middle of pretty much nowhere. Be prepared to wonder whether or not you’ve gotten lost two or three times along the way. Chances are? You’re probably headed in the right direction. Be advised that cell phone signals often drop off on the way to the field. If it’s your first journey? You may want old school printed directions to get you where you’re going.
Got questions about UWC? The best way to get them answered is to connect with the UWC Facebook Group. Got questions about how to buy a Mainland Ukulele? Head on over to their website – they’ll take great care of you!
Here’s a handy dandy map to get you started: