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Sweet music in Mahtowa

Holy Hootenanner band member Jeff Gilbertson sells merchandise and greets most folks by name at the Mahtowa Hootenanny. The music was free – a way for the church band to give back to the community. Jana Peterson / jpeterson@pinejournal.com1 / 3
Marc Gartman plays his banjo at the Mahowa Hootenanny on Saturday, July 14, with fellow Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank bandmates Teague and Ian Alexy. Jana Peterson/ jpeterson@pinejournal.com2 / 3
Holy Hootenanners band member Zach Langhorst poses with what is left of the pig he roasted for the hootenanny. Jana Peterson / jpeterson@pinejournal.com3 / 3

In the beginning, there was a hootenanny in Mahtowa. Back then, all of six years ago, the shindig was to raise money to fix up the building the church had purchased next door to use as a social hall and a home for the church band, the Holy Hootenanners.

Now, Salem Lutheran Church has paid off its social hall improvements and there's still a hootenanny.

Defined by various dictionaries as an informal gathering with folk music and sometimes dancing, no one was dancing at 4 p.m. Saturday, although musician Billy Southern was going strong.

"Too hot," said Hootenanner band member Jeff Gilbertson, who was manning the "merch" tent, selling CDs for the Hootenanners and their various guest bands. He gestured at the crowd spread out in lawn chairs under various awnings and any other place offering shade on a hot summer's day.

Gilbertson, who is also the jazz band director at Barnum High School, said Hootenanner band members often help line up the music for the event, or sometimes they take fan suggestions.

"We try to get a good variety," he said. "This year, someone suggested we get Brass Messengers. They're kind of like a band you'd hear walking on the street in New Orleans. Last year, we had a Native American drum circle."

The Holy Hootenanner's headlined Saturday's all-day event, which also featured music by Langertsons, Mama's Stolen Horses, Nathan Frazer and the AM Band, Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank and Jacob Mahon.

Hootenanner vocalist Erin Longhorst said the Hootenanners want to keep the annual event going, because they like to get the community together. Inside, they were selling pulled pork sandwiches — from a pig roasted by the Hootenanner's grill master, Zach Langhorst — where it was cooler and certainly more shaded.

"If we make a profit, great. If we don't, it was still a fun day anyway," Erin Longhorst said.

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