Fun as Folk: Huntsville’s Cigar Box Guitar Festival

Fun as folk: Huntsville's Cigar Box Guitar Festival in Huntsville, Alabama via

By Sarah Lena


I’ve spent most of my life around singers and songwriters, as the daughter of a lead singer in a band. Although my father was employed through a major aerospace firm, his favorite hobby is – as he calls it – pickin’ and grinnin’, which meant there were at least two guitars involved and most likely a Lynyrd Skynyrd tune. As such, I have developed a love and admiration of guitar and those who pick and grin.

I also want to state that I, myself, can do very little with a guitar beyond admire it and look wistfully at it and wish that I could play it. I don’t even OWN one.

Boy howdy, do I have good news for you. (And me!)

Huntsville is the home of the world’s longest-running Cigar Box Guitar Festival! And it’s running May 29th-30th!


Cigar Box Guitar Festival in Huntsville, Alabama

Photo: Courtesy of Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment


I can tell by the blank look on your face that you don’t quite know what that is. And that’s okay – I’m here to help. A Cigar Box Guitar (often called a CBG) is a device dating back to the late 1800s where common folk (like myself) could create a guitar out of commonly found items. Back in the day, just a plain ole cigar box, a broomstick, and a couple of strings were all you needed to start grinnin’ like the pros. Strings on a cigar box guitar could range from two to four, and cigar box guitars were a prominent staple in the era of jugs and washboards as instruments.

But Sarah, you say, we’re not back in the day! We’re in the now!

I know. And just like we now have computers that fit in our back pockets, the cigar box has evolved too. You’ll see incredibly intricate designs and hear absolutely pitch-perfect tones from these bad boys – but they all maintain the old, vintage idea of creating music from found items. This will be the 11th year for the festival, and you’ll hear many a CBG enthusiast proudly proclaim that this is the festival that started it all. In the last 11 years, along with the rise of steampunk and other movements that have DIYers devising their own purposes for items, CBGers have been congregating at Lowe Mill yearly to discuss, admire, and do a lot of pickin’ & grinnin’.

It’s no secret that I adore Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment as a venue, and a festival like this is made for the Mill. The festival is free – a $2 parking donation is suggested – and very family-friendly. There will be live music on several different stages, demonstrations of folk arts, hands-on workshops, and the usual cadre of Lowe Mill fare from their vendors and food shops.


Cigar Box Guitar Festival at Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment in Huntsville, Alabama

Photo: Courtesy of Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment


You can catch any of these live acts and be wowed (like I will be):

Friday, May 29 –

East Dock Main Stage

6:00 PM – The Mulligan Brothers

7:30 PM – April May & the June Bugs

Saturday, May 30 –

Nickel CBG Stage

2:00 PM – Cigar Box Local Open Mic featuring One Hand Dan, Mike Roberts, and more!

Railroad Room #2 Stage   

1:00 PM – Round Robin Songwriters Workshop featuring Dawn Osborne

East Dock Main Stage    

6:00 PM – Johnny Lowebow

7:00 PM – Earl Williams

8:00 PM – Microwave Dave

9:00 PM – Hymn for Her


Be sure to pack up the kids, grab a handful of cash for food and wares, and go visit a taste of vintage with a twist of modern at Lowe Mill’s Cigar Box Guitar Festival!




Which iHeartHsv blogger wrote this?

Sarah Lena Image

Sarah Lena

Sarah Lena has called Huntsville home since 1991, when her family moved here to support her father’s contribution to the International Space Station program. That began a love of all things space and all things Huntsville that has driven her path ever since. She met her husband, Bryan, while working in the Huntsville adaptation of “A Christmas Carol”, and their lives both on and backstage have evolved into a cast of three boys: ages 14, 7, and 1. As a professional cat-herder of rocket scientists, Huntsville is more than home to her – it’s her heart!

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