Some homes have a garden gnome, others might be visited by an Elf on the Shelf but Greg Hodapp grew up with a limberjack.“It’s interesting to see the regional differences because nobody has seen them out here,” Hodapp said about the little dancing wooden man.
Limberjacks are a musical tradition passed down in Hodapp’s family. It’s a wooden stick puppet with moveable joints that appears to dance on the end of a paddle a performer vibrates by hand. They’re also called limberjills, jig dolls and paddle puppets.
“You see them a lot more back East,” said Hodapp, 36, of Lewiston, who performs old-time music solo and as a member of the band Under the Wire. A limberjack often makes an appearance.
Limberjacks are an English tradition that came to America and, in Hodapp’s case, took root in Appalachia where his mother’s side of the family homesteaded. Another tradition he grew up with in Cincinnati are apple dolls — carving a doll’s head from an apple or other fruit or vegetable. As the food ages it shrivels, giving the doll more character. He’ll perform and demonstrate how to make limberjacks with apples and potatoes March 11 at Second Saturday, the family art day at the Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts & History in Lewiston.
Hodapp works as a park ranger at Hells Gate State Park in Lewiston. In his free time he performs on five-string banjo, harmonica, concertina, guitar and mountain dulcimer, an instrument he also builds.
“I have musical attention deficit syndrome,” he said.
The tall, bearded man sits on one end of a paddle and stands the limberjack on the other end. As he knocks the wood with his knuckle the doll’s arms swing back and forth, its knees lift and fall and its feet tap dance to the rhythm. The sound adds another layer of music.
The workshop is part of the “Common Threads: Folk and Fiber Arts” exhibit concluding Saturday with a free folk contra dance at 5 p.m. with the Palouse Folklore Society.
What: Limberjack workshop and folk music with Greg Hodapp
When: 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 11
Where: Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts & History
Of Note: The workshop is geared toward families.