Guitar connoisseurs can admire, buy, sell, or just talk shop with fellow enthusiasts as the Elmira Vintage Guitar Show rolls into town this month.
Organizer John Woods says the event has grown in attendance from 350 their first year to about 650 last year.
“We started it just to provide an outlet for local craft people to display their instruments and local guys like myself just to trade stuff around,” Woods said. “There’s not many places where local luthiers (makers of string instruments) can show their stuff, aside from getting a music store to buy something, it’s hard for them to get exposure, so that was the idea.”
There are several new vendors this year. He says about half the vendors are the same ones that come each year, and the other half are new vendors.
He says many of the new vendors are different builders like Bickertone Guitars, for example. Some of the returning vendors include Meadow Guitars, The Guitar Corner, Brickhouse Guitars, Plant 4 Sound Tools, and Folkway Music. Now in its sixth year, the show boasts a range of vendors selling not only guitars, but amps, mandolins, violins, and other instruments.
“People love the show,” Woods said. “Most people once they’ve been once, they like to come again. Last year we had patrons from Windsor to Quebec and we had vendors from that far, as well. In the past we had a vendor from Manitoba and another vendor from Nova Scotia.”
He said there’s a guitar show once or twice a year in Toronto, but it’s smaller than what he puts together. It’s run by a music store so the people who like that store will go, while the others won’t. Woods isn’t affiliated with any particular music store.
“There’s smaller ones around but for whatever reason this one has been catching on and it’s the biggest one in Ontario now,” Woods said.
He started getting interested in guitars after he was done high school. It became a hobby he could work on at his own pace after work.
His collection includes Stratocaster, Telecaster, Les Paul, and Yamaha guitars among others.
“My first one was my Stratocaster and that’s been my main one,” Woods said. “I bought my Stratocaster in 1986 and until 2006 that was the only guitar that I ever played.”
He says he’s a collector by nature and guitars were the next thing for him to collect.
Past musical guests at the show include Teddy Leonard, Don Ross, and Morgan Davis. This year Fergus resident Tony McManus will make an appearance.
“He’s considered to be amongst the best of the Celtic guitar players,” Woods said.
The guest player usually demonstrates some of the fancier guitars the luthiers have made. And then around noon he’ll do a short program.
“The live music part isn’t a huge part of the show, but it’s an important part as well,” Woods said.
High ticket items people can expect to see are the vintage acoustics. It’s not unusual to see guitars from the 1930s or 1940s where the asking price range is anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000 with the occasional $10,000 in there, he noted.
He says the one challenge he faces is getting more local people to come to the show. Lots of people come from across Ontario but not many locals check out the event, aside from the musical community.
“I’ve always been surprised in the way locals that are sort of kind of interested wouldn’t come for a look,” Woods said. “If it was a car show you wouldn’t have to be a car enthusiast to go.”
The show runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 26 at the Elmira Lions Hall. Admission is $8.
“Spend the morning looking over some beautifully made guitars and just appreciate the craftsmanship some of the vendors put into these guitars,” Woods said. “As far as the vintage ones you’d be hard pressed to see that many vintage guitars together in one spot anywhere, really.”