Western Swing Festival swings back for 30th year next week

Bust out your dancing shoes.

Rosin your bow, slip on your dancing shoes and find a partner, because the 30th annual Western Swing Music Festival hits Enumclaw next weekend.

It’s their first time back since 2019, as the last two festivals were cancelled out of a concern for COVID-19.

The shindig involves three days of live bands, jam sessions and an open dance floor, culminating with the Western Swing Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Saturday morning. There’s even a music camp running alongside the event for those who want to learn to play along.

As per usual, first responders get in for free, owing to the admiration and gratefulness inspired in the local scene by the late Mayme “Lou” Bischoff, a dedicated member of the society.

It’s all put together by the Northwest Western Swing Music Society, which has been hootin’ and hollerin’ in Washington since it was formed in 1983.

Western Swing is an improvisational form of country jazz that was born in mid-western states in the early 1920s and ’30s. One of its key features is the use of rural string instruments, like steel guitars and twin fiddles, rather than the traditional big band instruments that were also popular during this time period. Essentially, it blends together the bombastic fun and energy of big band music with the spirit and the instrumentation of country music.

Bands scheduled to perform include The Western Flyers, Morey Sullivan and Friends, and Sharyn Lee and The Sundowners. Food will be provided by New York Catering. Lunch is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and dinner is 4 to 7:30 p.m. Jam sessions run from 7 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Not sure where to start? There’s a free community dance on Thursday from 7 to 11 p.m.

Looking to learn the art before you play the part? The Northwest Western Swing Music Society holds a music camp contemporaneously that weekend, teaching swing musicians the rhythms and harmonies of the genre as well as stage craft and the art of jamming out. You should know the basics of your instrument and of playing music, but the instructors will take you the rest of the way to playing western swing.

Guitarist and vocalist Suze Spencer leads the class this year with the help of accordionist Toby Hanson (of the band Toby Hanson and the Smiling Scandinavians).

Enrollment for the class is limited and costs $150. Students can even arrange private lessons with the instructors, who include accomplished musicians Suze Spencer, Toby Hanson, Joey and Sherry McKenzie, Mathew Medford and young talent Ridge Roberts.

Students perform Saturday afternoon, getting to show off what they’ve learned.

The Western Swing Music Festival

What: Three days of fiddles and floor-stomping.

Where: The Enumclaw Expo Center Field House (1456 Roosevelt Ave E).

When: August 11 – 13, with bands playing from morning to evening on Friday and Saturday and a free community dance on Thursday from 7 to 11 p.m. The music camp kicks off 1 p.m. August 10.

How much: $10 per day Friday and Saturday, but kids 10 and younger and police, fire or EMS first responders get in free.

More info: Visit nwwsms.com.