A Good Time for Ragtime

Eau Claire Ragtime Festival hits fourteenth year

Anna Field, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

BELOW: Jeff Barnhart and Carl Sonny Leland engage in extreme ivory tickling at the 2010 fest.
BELOW: Jeff Barnhart and Carl Sonny Leland engage in extreme ivory tickling at the 2010 fest.

Now in its 14th year, the annual Eau Claire Ragtime Festival will feature concerts, sing-a-longs, food, silent films, and more. The festival began as a single night of ragtime music, but in the years since the festival has grown into a weekend full of old-time musical fun. This time around, headliners for the Jan. 12 “A Night in the Barrelhouse” concert include California pianist Larisa Migachyov, flute-and-piano duo Ivory & Gold, and pianist Marty Mincer of Iowa, a two-time gold-medal winner at the World Championship of Old-Time Piano Playing. Each year the festival raises money for a local charity; this year’s beneficiary is Feed My People Food Bank. The support of nearly 90 volunteers enables the festival to continue to bring new and interesting ragtime and early jazz performers to Eau Claire. This year’s festival includes a range of concerts as well as a twin piano lounge, in which one player will perform the melody while the other plays counterpoint, creating a sound totally different than a duet on the same piano. In addition, there are dinners on Friday and Saturday night, although each requires advance tickets and is limited to 72 people. If that’s not enough, there is also a vintage dress display, an outdoor piano for those willing to face the elements, and plenty of root beer floats. Bios of performers and a wealth of information about each event are available on the festival’s website. Tickets, which differ in price for each event, are available now at First Congregational Church or by using the form found on the festival’s website.