Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 24

by Heather Berry | hberry@ruralmissouri.coop

In January 2017, Ryan started planning Warsaw's first-ever Ozark Cigar
Box Guitar Festival. With the connections he'd made at the Kansas City event,
along with local business owners, the City of Warsaw, as well as Benton County
yan Mackey will tell you he marches to the beat of a different drum - a
Tourism & Recreation helping, a festival celebrating cigar box guitars was held
cajon (pronounced cu-hone) box drum to be exact. One day while surfing
this past year. Ryan's goal for the one-day event was to bring awareness to the
the internet, he found another instrument that was even more intriguunique musical artform and hopefully draw at least 500 people to the town.
ing - a cigar box with a piece of wood sticking through it along with
"According to the tourism people, we had well over 1,000 attend," says Ryan.
a couple of strings hooked on. "What a cool way to make music," he thought.
While he won't say exactly how much money he and his wife, Julie, have put
The Warsaw woodworker immediately set out to build his own cigar box guitar. His sister, who owns a resort in Canada, gave him some
into getting the event off the ground, he will say "tens of thousands." He's
excited it's already paying off.
old Cuban cigar boxes and he was set. "I still have it, but it's
"Besides having great cigar box musicians playing all day, I think a lot of
gone through several rebuilds over the years," Ryan says, "But
the draw is that it's a family-friendly venue and free to attend," he adds.
the body is still the same." Ryan's built and sold dozens of the
The festival is held downtown in the beautiful Drake Harbor amphitheretro music makers over the years, with acoustic versions startater located along the Osage River.
ing at $75 and fancier versions with electric hardware selling from
Kansas City cigar box guitarist A.J. Gaither was stoked Ryan
$150 to $300.
Warsaw
asked him to be part of the first-ever event last August.
While most are made from old wooden or cardboard cigar con"I've played a lot of similar festivals based around homemade
tainers, Ryan also has made guitars from a metal Cherry Mash
instruments, but this one is already one of the largest outdoor festicandy tin, a tennis racket and a bed pan. "I've seen them made from
vals," says the recording artist, who toured Europe last year playing
frying pans, shovels and rifles, too," Ryan adds.
his cigar box guitars. "Ryan's done a great job of getting great artists
Curious to learn more, Ryan found the Kansas City Cigar Box Guitar Fesin the handmade guitar realm to play here, so you get a variety of styles."
tival, where regional musicians played both acoustic and electric handmade
A.J. says whether you have a musical background or not doesn't matter
creations and drew hundreds of fans from surrounding states.
when it comes to these handmade instruments. "Because I write my own music,
"Until then, I didn't even know there were music festivals based around
I chose to build my main cigar box guitar as a 4-string, but most have only two
handmade instruments," says Ryan, who builds rustic furniture for a living.
or three strings. You can put frets on the neck like regular guitars or not. You
While many genres of music are played on the guitars, most musicians
can pick, pluck or slide when you play. Really, anything goes," A.J. says, noting
describe the unique tones that the boxes offer as leaning toward a rhythm and
he loves the "rattles and buzzes" he can get from the raspy sounding guitars.
blues sound. Cigar box guitars date back to the late 1800s when the instruDue to this past year's huge success, the 2nd Annual Ozark Cigar Box Guitar
ments were made out of necessity from whatever the player could scrounge up.
Festival has expanded to two days, Aug. 4 & 5. Ryan says the event is free other
Broken broom handles or weathered boards, and twine or old wire could be
than the vendor items, beer garden and the "Taste of the Ozarks Backyard BBQ
strung over cigar boxes whenever money was scarce.
Contest" where entrants may win $1,000 in cash prizes.
As an artist, the member of Osage Valley Electric Cooperative enjoys creating
When you ask Ryan why he would go to all the trouble to promote an event
unique guitars for people, but says he doesn't play them much.
where people jam with boxes, he just shakes his head.
"I'm a drummer, not a guitarist," says the 40 year old. "As far as cigar box
"There's so much negativity and stress in the world. I want to do what I can
guitars, I'm a back porch picker at best. But I love how they sound, and each
to eliminate some of it," he says. "Music is a universal language and this is one
one is totally different in tone and looks."
beautiful, creative way to bring a little beauty and peace to everyone."
Ryan attended the Kansas City festival for years, but it later changed locations and attendance eventually dwindled to the point where the festival died
You may email Ryan Mackey at moonshinedesigns78@gmail.com and A. J.
out. While there were other cigar box guitar events around the United States,
Gaither at Ajgaithermusic@gmail.com. For more information about this year's
Ryan decided to take a chance on starting his own back home in Warsaw, with
Ozark Cigar Box Guitar Festival on Aug. 4 & 5, go to http://s.coop/2981e or
a population far less than Kansas City's 481,000 to draw a crowd.
follow the group on Facebook. Bring lawn chairs as seating is not provided for
"I called the guy who'd started the KC festival and asked if he'd mind me
the event.
starting one if he wasn't going to host one," Ryan says. "He said to go for it."

R

Smokin'!'!
Smokin

Warsaw woodworker crafts guitars from cigar boxes and more
Ryan Mackey, left, started the Ozark Cigar Box
Guitar Festival in Warsaw in August 2017. The
gathering drew more than 1,000 people, as well as
cigar box guitar aficionado A. J. Gaither, right. This
year's festival is set for Aug. 4 & 5.


http://s.coop/2981e

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - August 2018

Contents
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Intro
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Cover1
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Cover2
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Contents
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 4
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 5
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 6
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 7
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 8
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 9
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 10
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Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 24
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Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 26
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Rural Missouri - August 2018 - 42
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Cover3
Rural Missouri - August 2018 - Cover4
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