Club/Festival History

At the bottom of this page are links to Articles about the club or club members, festival advertisements and other items that relate to our club history.

A brief History of the Longest continuous Appalachian Dulcimer Festival in the US

The 40th anniversary of the Southern Appalachian Dulcimer Association (SADA) Festival was held at Tannehill Historical State Park, AL April 28 – May 5, 2013 with rainy weather on Friday afternoon and Extremely cold weather on Saturday, so the Friday Pot Luck and Saturday Gazebo performances and Vendors were moved into the Tannehill Event Center. On Friday morning, Fred Hunt of Absolutely Alabama  arrived and filmed some of the Gazebo performances for the show, which should air Memorial Day weekend.  Terry Hennessy from Australia came and showed his beautiful dulcimer craftsmanship at the Friday Pot Luck.

The SADA festival at Tannehill is currently the longest continuous running Appalachian Dulcimer festival in the United States. There is a possibility that Evart festival in Michigan began before the Southern Appalachian festival, but it was primarily for Hammered dulcimers when it began and has only recently opened up to Appalachian Dulcimers.
SADA was formed in 1973 starting with a small meeting arranged by Dorothy Fuller, and quickly held its first festival at Indian Springs School outside of Birmingham on the first Sunday in May of 1974 where it stayed for several years.  In 1977, the festival had about 100 in attendance, most  from the Southeast, with a few from the rest of the U.S. and Europe.   At the 7th Annual Festival on May 4, 1980 at Indian Springs School approximately 600 people attended.   The SADA festival was moved to Tannehill Historical State Park for it’s 15th Annual Festival in 1988.  At the 16th Annual Festival, players came from at least 5 states.
Among some of the first members were Peggy Donaldson (Album Shady Grove), Henry & Ruth Clark and Levis Barton & Barney Perkins  along with many others.   In 1982, Martha Jean Crain brought a dulcimer she had made for four people to play, and Lois Hornbostel, Dorsey Williams and Margaret and Howard Street played it.  Michael Hentwig, a builder who frequently sold at the festival in the early years, called the dulcimer, the “Social Dulcimer”.  Some of the early festivals were taped for the local Birmingham radio stations and replayed throughout the year.  Often, players would gather on the porches of various buildings around the park and sit and play dulcimers and fellowship together.  Others who have attended over the years include Hollis Long, Dan Fraley (Album Left Hand Dulcimer Band), Archie Lee, Charles Ellis, Rob Angus (from the band After Class), Denise Guillory , Bob and Rose Taunton (Sweet Fern), Ray Hunley, and more recently Guy George, Gary Sager, Marsha Harris & Jess Dickinson.    The festival has changed over the years from a one day event to a week long event, where informal and planned jams occur throughout the park, and many return every year to enjoy the fun and fellowship and many friendships  and a few bands or performing groups have developed amongst those who regularly attend the festival. The 2011 Festival was held soon after the April 27th tornadoes routed Alabama, including many trees down at Tannehill but not injuring anyone present at the time.  Many of the dulcimer campers were already at the park, and a tree fell approximately 3-4 feet from Jake Hisaw’s trailer parallel to it so he no longer camps under the trees.  Many stayed in the campground until power was restored on Tuesday night before the festival began, however festival attendance was low.  A popular new addition to the festival, the ‘Schoolhouse Jams’ seem to be a long anticipated event of the festival.  The schoolhouse was first used for a jam due to a rainy night prior to the festival in 2010, and ever since has become a popular place to jam.  While not a ‘teaching’ festival, classes are offered on Saturday morning for those who want to learn the dulcimer or pick up new skills and techniques, and many veteran players love to have new players come ask them to help learn a technique or tune during the week before. The festival is a wonderful time to enjoy participating in or listening to beautiful music filling the air in the park.   The official schedule begins on Thursday with a dessert social then Jam for club members (see latest newsletter for membership dues) and then one or more jam sessions.  Friday consists of performances from many different dulcimer groups at the Gazebo, with a pot luck supper in the evening at the Kiwanis pavilion and large jams afterward. Saturday morning is lessons and a few more groups performing at the Gazebo, and Saturday afternoon is open stage.  Sunday morning ends the festival with a church service with dulcimer players at the Old Schoolhouse.

The song “The Porch at Tannehill” (see below) written by Annette Quint in 1992 sums up the gist of the festival:

The Porch at Tannehill

Song composed by Annette Quint 1992

Sung to the tune Elvaton (by John McCutcheon)


There’s a place in Alabama, that keeps coming back to me

How I love it’s wooded hillside and its sweet tranquility,

There I first learned to play dulcimer,

And I’ll never forget that thrill of first playing

That sweet music on the porch at Tannehill.


Oh, to sit and play that music there around the cabin door

We would play for hours and hours, tunes that came from days of yore,

Wildwood Flower, Old Joe Clark, I’ll Fly Away, just gave me chills,

As I learned to play my dulcimer on the porch at Tannehill.


So every year we venture here and lots of folks we meet,

We sing and play and we swap new songs and we eat, and we eat and we eat!

So I’ve traveled this world over, when the spring birds start to trill,

You can bet that I’ll be headed back to the porch at Tannehill.


Oh, these woods have heard sweet music now for nearly twenty years

And the memories of the folks gone on, brings us laughter, brings us tears

But their music lives forever and I know they’re with me still

As I sit and play my dulcimer on the porch at Tannehill.


So every year we venture here and lots of folks we meet,

We sing and play and we swap new songs and we eat, and we eat and we eat!

So I’ve traveled this world over, when the spring birds start to trill,

You can bet that I’ll be headed back to the porch at Tannehill.

Yes, you can bet that I’ll be headed back to the porch at Tannehill.


Links to Historical documents below in order by date. Many of these items are from Dulcimer Players News who have given us permission to post these articles.   If you haven’t subscribed to Dulcimer Players News, you are missing out on a great magazine and wonderful CD’s every quarter.  Here is the website:

Newspaper articles are links to newspaper websites

1970’s  (the club formed in 1973)

Letter to Dulcimer Players News by Peggy Donaldson, SADA President in fall of 1977 (DPN Vol 3 No.4): 1977FallDPNPeggyDon

SADA ad in 1979 Spring Issue of Dulcimer Players News (DPN Vol5 No2): SADAad1979DPNspring

Letter to Dulcimer Players News from Doug Murray about festival in Summer 1979 (DPN Vol5 No3): DPNsummer1979DougM


Letter to Dulcimer Players News from Peggy Donaldson, SADA President in Winter 1980, plus pictures (DPN Vol6 No1): LtrPeggyDPNwintr1980

SADA ad in 1980 Spring issue of Dulcimer Players News (DPN Vol6 No2): 1980festAdDPN

Letter to Dulcimer Players News from Martha Jean Crain Summer 1980 (DPN Vol6 No3): 1980MarthaJCrainltrD

Article about Dulcimer Organizations including SADA in the Winter 1982 Dulcimer Players News (DPN Vol8 No1) :1982DPNwinNews

Picture of Mildred Crain showing a dulcimer she built in Dulcimer Players News Winter 1983 (DPN Vol 9 No1): 1983MildredCrainPic

DPN Winter 1985 Article on Henry Clark written by Martha Jean Crain (DPN Vol11 No1): 1985winHenryClark

Tribute to Bill Lee, SADA dulcimer builder in Fall 1986 Dulcimer Players News (DPN Vol 12 No4) : 1986BillLeetribute

DPN Fall 1987 Club information (picture of Mildred Crain) (DPN Vol 13 No4): 1987clubNewsFall

Note: Up until this time, the festival was held at Indian Springs School, usually on a Sunday afternoon. Upon moving to Tannehill, the main events were moved to Saturday.  We’re told that Henry Clark and Bud and Levis Barton were instrumental in having the festival moved to Tannehill.

January 20, 1988 article in Tuscaloosa news stating that festival will be held at Tannehill State Park for the first time in 1988:,4538618&hl=en

May 4, 1989 article about SADA festival in Tuscaloosa News (link):,604682&hl=en


April 28, 1992 article on Henry Clark in Tuscaloosa news (this is a link & not on our website):,8858075&hl=en

May 1, 1997 article in Tuscaloosa News Page 1:

Link to page 2 of above:

2000 and beyond (much information from recent years is on this website in newsletters or festival flyers)

2013 Absolutely Alabama Program on Dulcimer Festival done by Fred Hunter:

2014 Article about festival on

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