"My son Jonathan wanted a bicycle for Christmas," the father remembers, "but he got a surprise. It was a one-wheeled bike. He got a banjo instead."
A crowd of sympathisers laugh. They all understand. It's a passion, a vocation and the very thing that has brought them to the Bluegrass Music Festival in the Ulster American Folk Park. On this special weekend west of the Bann, there are fiddles, double basses, washboards and guitars. But everywhere there are banjos.
And nearby we see Jonathan Toman, who missed out on the bike of his dreams, many years ago. He's plainly not too traumatised, as he cradles his given instrument like an old pal, and will soon be onstage again with his dad and uncle in a combo called Northern Exposure. The same guy also moonlights with Cat Malojian, who recently supported Snow Patrol at Ward Park, so the music is serving him decently.
Elsewhere, there are blow-ins from North Carolina, and local combos discussing clawhammer technique and modal tunings. We hear old songs from Bill Monroe and Dock Boggs, The Carter Family and Hank Williams. I would guess that The Broken String Band have a collective age that rivals The Rolling Stones, while the Water Tower Bucket Boys hail from Portland Oregon and play their tunes with the rowdy panache of The Beastie Boys.
A deal of the music hails the good times, but bluegrass is a genre that is also haunted by the darker material. So it's fitting that we hear strains of 'I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground', from the fearsome repertoire of Bascom Lamar Lunsford, a desperate old tale. There's also the chance to hear David Holt's version of 'The Cuckoo, a tune that reaches us via the Smithsonian recording of Clarence Ashley, but which has its roots on this side of the Atlantic.
Ultimately it's a lovely experience and another chance to see Edinburgh's Southern Tenant Folk Union, at large with a hot new record 'The New Farming Scene' and stringing us along in the best possible manner.
Southern Tenant Folk Union play The Black Box, Belfast, September 6.