Scenes from the 2018 La Conner Guitar Festival

Let’s face it: If you’re a guitar collector, chances are at some point you’ve had to make an excuse or two to your family about your habit.

That bright orange case in the corner? Why, yes, it is new… I needed a flight case for our forthcoming Summer vacation…

That charge on the credit card for $60? Well, I discovered a new flatpick with grip just like real tortoiseshell!  

So perhaps it’s fitting that, for the second year in a row, a couple thousand fretted instrument fanatics had to explain to their loved ones why, on Mother’s Day weekend, they were skipping the brunch buffets back at home and headed to the quaint town of La Conner, Washington.

La Conner (population 900, give or take) is a relatively unlikely spot for a guitar festival. Its main drag sits an hour north of Seattle on the banks of the Swinomish Channel, linking the town to the saltwater outlets of Skagit Bay and the Pacific. A few minutes inland are the Skagit Valley’s endless fields of tulips and daffodils. Like any good tourist town, this place is charming. Yet, for one weekend of the year, it somehow serves as the perfect guitar getaway, too.

At the three day-long 2018 La Conner Guitar Festival, you could see and audition (or purchase, of course) a few hundred handmade acoustic guitars built by 50 of the world’s finest luthiers. There were archtops and flattops; traditional and forward-thinking shapes. There were legendary makers such as Roy McAlister, Steve Klein and Linda Manzer; and up-and-coming luthiers like Issac Jang and Tyler Wells. Beyond that, there were clinics, mini-recitals and informal music gatherings seemingly in every corner of the town. There really is no other guitar festival in America that fits in so seamlessly with its surroundings. It’s as if all those quaint La Conner cafes and wine bars were meant for this event.

The Fretboard Journal was proud to sponsor the La Conner Festival for the second year running. It was great to see so many old friends and magazine subjects as well as meet so many of our subscribers and podcast listeners. Here are a few of the highlights from the show, all taken by the FJ or luthier Isaac Jang, who was not only showcasing two exhibit guitars at his table but also serving as our de facto roving reporter/Instagrammer.