Bluegrass festival to honor local guitarist

By Sara Bruestle | Aug 14, 2013
Courtesy of: Paul Wright The seventh annual Bluegrass and Folk Festival is dedicated to the memory of Thad Dworkin, of Mukilteo.

When Wolf Creek, formerly the Carpool Tunnels, takes the stage at the Bluegrass and Folk Festival this weekend, fans will notice that one of the band’s longtime members is missing.

The seventh annual festival is dedicated to the memory of Carpool Tunnels guitarist Thad Dworkin, of Mukilteo, who died unexpectedly on Christmas Eve at 55.

The festival, hosted by the Mukilteo Arts Guild, is scheduled to run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. this Saturday, Aug. 17, in the Lincoln Courtyard in Old Town.

“Thad and the band played not the first year, but the second year for us and every year since that,” said Steve Schmalz, chair and emcee of the festival. “It was just a natural fit for us. This year’s festival will be a celebration of his life.”

Saturday's lineup features bluegrass and folk bands and solo performers, and adds some contemporary music to the mix, for a total of 10 acts. Some are returning to the festival, some are new.

Repeat performers include opener Richard DeCuir with his original and cover folk (11 a.m.); Deer in the Headlights (2 p.m.), which mixes bluegrass, folk, country and swing; Americana band Waiting on Wendy; and Gary Davis with his original bluegrass (6 p.m.).

Newbies include music from around the world by Jahn and Johnson (11:45 a.m.); the contemporary pop of Ben Robbins (1:15 p.m.) and the closing band Eric and Michael, which has Bruno Mars and other pop influences (6:30 p.m.)

Thad Dworkin was a guitarist for the bluegrass cover band Carpool Tunnels for six years. He left behind a love for bluegrass and a legacy for music.

His daughter, Marni Dworkin, 23, played with the band in her father’s place for about three months after his death, including at his memorial service. He had been teaching her the guitar.

The band – Marni too – said playing music together helped them to heal.

“He loved to take cheesy ‘60s songs and turn them into bluegrass, so he’d show up with Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’ and ‘Red Red Wine,’” said Paul Wright, who plays the dobro in the band. “He wanted to play songs that were fun and would get the crowd going.”

After 14 years as Carpool Tunnels, the band decided it was time for a name change.

“It turns out, I was the only one who liked the name of the band,” Wright said.

They recently re-formed as Wolf Creek, named for the southern Illinois creek that Wright’s wife’s grandfather would cool his moonshine in during Prohibition.

(Moonshine is mentioned a lot in bluegrass songs, so the name seemed like a good fit – plus, there’s a link to family history.)

Now a solo act, Marni Dworkin sings and plays folk on her guitar, the one her father found her for her birthday.

“My dad was the best guitar player I’ve ever seen,” she said. “He brought everybody together with music. There’s not going to be anyone like him, but I’ll do my best to fill the music spot in my family.”

Steve and Christine Schmalz, of the Mukilteo Arts Guild, started the Bluegrass and Folk Festival in 2006. The Carpool Tunnels was one of the first bands to make the lineup – and then return to play, year after year.

“Thad was so supportive and really invested in getting this off the ground,” Christine said. “He would bring a crowd with him to the festival. He was instrumental, no pun intended.”

The festival has evolved over the last several years to include some contemporary acts – but it still takes the audience back to their “roots” with bluegrass and folk.

“It’s definitely become more eclectic,” Steve said. “The musicians have been the whole catalyst of this.

“They’re doing this for the love of music and, in the end, I think the audience appreciates that.”

The free festival is sponsored by the Red Cup Café and located in the courtyard at 619 4th St. There will be festival seating and a stage for the musicians. Parking is free.

The Mukilteo Arts Guild is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering and promoting arts and artists in the greater Mukilteo community.

For more information, contact Steve Schmalz at 425-423-0450.

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