Nfld. & Labrador

Ugly stick workshop helps outfit next generation of mummers

It wasn't a kitchen party, but there were plenty of ugly sticks in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's on Thursday.

Nearly 20 ugly sticks made at event, mostly by young families

Helen and Josie Pretty and their dad Michael look on as Ryan Davis of the Mummers Festival helps attach their grandfather's boot to an ugly stick. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

It wasn't a kitchen party, but there were plenty of ugly sticks in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's on Thursday.

The town, in partnership with the annual Mummers Festival, held a workshop to help people build their own sticks for the holidays.

Ryan Davis, executive director of the Mummers Festival, was on hand to help out at the workshop, and says while not a lot is known about the history of the ugly stick, it's a great instrument for mummers.

"What I do know, it's just an instrument that's made with whatever you have around, which is very fitting for mummering," he said.

All you need to make a stick of your own, Davis said, is a broomstick or a strong branch and something to attach to the bottom of the stick, using a screw and a washer.

"Usually it's a boot or a sneaker or something that's not going to bang up the kitchen floor too bad," he said.

There were nearly 20 ugly sticks made at the workshop. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

Finally, put a tin can on top, and you've got an ugly stick. The whole thing is struck with a second stick, which Davis calls a "saw."

"The second stick has got little notches in it so you can run it along the main stick," he said. "It makes a nice sound with all the bottle caps that are attached as well for that nice rattle."

And the more bottle caps the better.

"It's definitely a percussion instrument, and people can play the ugly stick so well because you've got that lovely rattle when the saw goes across, the sound that it makes when you hit the can," said Davis

"And then of course when you smack the boot on the floor, that's a different sound altogether, so combined, you can really make very interesting sounds." 

The ugly sticks were topped with well-decorated tin cans. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

Helen and Josie Pretty attended with their dad, Michael. Josie, 8, said it wasn't her idea to go to the workshop, but she was having a good time.

"Dad just got us into this, but I like it."

Michael said the girls each used one of their grandfather's boots to make their ugly sticks.

"He passed before they were born and they have a connection with him somehow and we're using his boot," he said.

"So I'm thinking he's smiling down from heaven tonight looking at us doing this."

Josie Pretty says she had fun making her ugly stick. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

There were nearly 20 ugly sticks made at the workshop, mostly by families with young children like the Prettys.

Davis said he hopes to see some of those ugly sticks at the Mummers Parade on Dec. 8.

With files from Fred Hutton

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