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A Breedlove luthier working on the custom guitar destined for the winner of the Breedlove Custom Masterclass Extraordinary Experience contest.

"Camp" Fire Survivor Wins
Custom Breedlove Guitar

“Sometimes the right person wins,” says owner Tom Bedell.


LAST NOVEMBER, Marianne, a 67-year-old California grandmother, lost her guitars in the devastating “Camp Fire” that destroyed communities in Northern California. A month later, she won the Breedlove Custom Masterclass Extraordinary Experience Promotion when her name was selected at random from 25,000 entries. Winning a new guitar custom designed to her specifications left her in a state of awe. “This kind of stuff doesn’t happen to me,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it when I got the news. It was overwhelming because of the contrast to what I had just experienced, but goodness, to have a wonderful guitar to play that’s just for me, it’s breathtaking and quite a thrill.”

Residents of hard hit Paradise, Marianne and her husband actually lost everything—their house, their belongings, and six beloved cats—barely escaping down a blazing mountain road with their lives. “It was surreal,” she said. “We made it down okay, but we were going through areas where fire was just pouring down. It was really crazy, and really scary, and I don’t want to ever go through that again.”

“Sometimes the right person wins,” says Breedlove owner Tom Bedell of Marianne’s luck, as well as her sanguine outlook. Marianne began playing at age 11, inspired by the same folk music that drew Bedell to the guitar as a young man in Spirit Lake, Iowa. When she retired, five years ago, from a nearly 30-year career as a USPS mail carrier, she was glad to finally have the time to focus on her instrument, taking fingerstyle lessons and singing Neil Young and Bonnie Raitt favorites at local open mic nights. “A guitar is a friend,” she says. “It’s always there.”

While she’s filled with joy at winning, fingerpicking obviously isn’t the first thing on Marianne’s mind these days. The couple is currently staying at a friend’s house in Chico, California as they work through insurance claims and tally their losses. Still, she looks forward to picking up her “dream guitar” at Breedlove facilities a few months from now.

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