Columbus

Unlikely Music: Logan, Ohio’s Unique Festival

Washboards aren’t just for laundry!

June 13, 2018

By

Katherine Bauer

on

Apr 8, 2017

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For many people, summer is synonymous with the music festival season, from events as big as Coachella to small, day-long events of bands playing in public parks and squares in small towns.  However, Logan OH is home to a very specific and unique festival: the “Washboard Music Festival.”  Held annually, this festival happens in the center of town, easily accessible from surrounding areas.

See the Logan, OH listings here

From Laundry Tool to Instrument

a washboard

While many music festivals cater to young and wealthy crowds, the Washboard Music Festival has something for all ages and all types of people, and this is partially a result of the legacy of washboard music.  Washboards used to be a staple in every household as they were essential to doing laundry, but in the mid 20th century, with the invention and rise in popularity of the washing machine, using washboards for, well, washing became less common.   In the US today, they’re mostly used as home decoration, props, and musical instruments.  Using washboards as instruments grew out of the universal need for entertainment, regardless of whether or not a family could afford actual instruments.  

a turn-of-the-century jug band

An empty jug could work just as well as a flute, even if it could only play one note, while an overturned bucket with a broom handle and string could substitute for a kind of bass.  A washboard could cover many different types of percussion sounds, and thus the washboard band or “jug band” was born: a uniquely American form of music.  (Take a listen to a band from the 2017 Festival in the video below!)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbojgPnS5Io

In keeping with this idea of American heritage, the last original, American washboard manufacturing company  is in Logan, OH.  Marketing themselves as purveyors of Americana, the Columbus Washboard Company “has been manufacturing hand-made washboards since 1895 and continues to offer a range of vintage laundry items and Appalachian gifts.”  Originally based in Columbus, the company moved to Logan in the early 2000s as a cost-saving measure, and the factory still manufactures each washboard by hand, using machinery and equipment that dates back as far as the late 1890s.  It’s possible to tour the factory year-round either with a guide or on a self-guided tour.

a large washboard reading "SUNNYLAND" on a red brick building
Image courtesy of Pioneer Press

Things To Do at the Festival

The Washboard Music Festival takes place in June over Father’s Day weekend every year (June 14-16 this year).  For three days, musicians and bands from all over the country gather in the small town to perform a variety of bluegrass, Dixieland, and “jug-band” music.  The lineup of bands for this year include everything from modern Celtic music to prewar-folk music, and ragtime/jazz/blues fusion to country, with a total of ten groups set to perform.  In addition to the bands, a variety of other activities and attractions ensure fun for all ages.  For children, there are a variety of carnival rides, magic shows, puppeteers, and balloon animals.

two young girls riding on a carnival roller coaster
Image courtesy of Bradleyfinnearty.com

For adults, there is an antique tractor show, as well as a quilt show, and of course there are many arts and crafts vendors plus plenty of food.  What makes this particularly great for families is that all of the entertainment and kids activities are free, as are tours of the Washboard Company’s factory!  

Visiting Logan: Places to Stay

The festival takes place in the center of town, easily accessible from all the surrounding areas.  Nearby lodgings include the Baymont Inn and Suites, the Holiday Inn Express, and a Budget Inn; all three are less than two miles away from the Washboard Factory, putting them within walking distance of the main festival.  The town of Logan has a population of just over 7,000 people, so even with other people coming in for the festivities, the crowds won’t be too bad.  If you don’t live in the immediate area of the town, Logan is approximately an hour and a half’s drive from Columbus, OH, just over three hours from Cleveland, OH, and about three and a half hours from Pittsburgh, PA.  In the center of the scenic Hocking Hills, visitors who wish to stay overnight for the whole weekend can stay in a variety of other lodgings besides the three listed above, although other surrounding hotels are a bit farther away.  Other lodgings include everything from cabins to hotels, to inns and campsites for a weekend full of rural, old-fashioned Americana!

Local Favorites: Places to Eat

If you tire of “fair food”, you can also try any of a few local eateries in downtown Logan, such as the M & M Family Diner.  This establishment is known for their home cooking and delicious breakfasts, and it’s a great place to start your day before heading over to the festival.  For lunch or dinner you could stop by the Home Tavern, a local bar with inexpensive, simple foods.  There’s also the Maya Burrito Co. and Penny’s Pastries nearby.

a crowd of people in the streets during a festival
‍Image courtesy of Washboard Music Festival

While you’re around for the festival, or if you visit any of the other 51 weekends of the year, why not check out all the other unique things to do around town?  If you’re a collector, check out the Logan Antique Mall, which has over 100 vendors selling everything from quilts to furniture and jewelry to old military items.  Take a walk around a nearby park or visit a unique museum.  For more information on these kinds of activities, see our previous post,  5 Ways to Spend a Weekend in Logan!

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