The idea of a barbecue cookout in January seems a little crazy at first.
But then again, a lot of things at Kirby’s Beer Store seem a little crazy.
The tiny dive bar, which has been a staple of Wichita’s music scene for decades, is hosting its annual Meat Fest this weekend – which Kirby’s owner Alex Thomas describes as “a potluck tailgate for music.”
It’s all for a good cause, as the proceeds from Meat Fest will go toward a scholarship fund at Wichita State University.
What is Meat Fest?
Over the approximately 15 years Meat Fest has been put on, it’s raised more than $15,000 for WSU students.
When it first started, “it was just getting bands together and grilling out one day at Kirby’s,” Thomas said.
Thomas said it traditionally took place in December, “when it was snowing out, because it made no sense to have a cookout in the winter, but that was the point.”
Traditionally, people bring some sort of meat – as well as a $5 suggested donation – when they come to Meat Fest. Bar staff then grills up that meat and serves it to those in attendance.
You’re not guaranteed to eat the meat you bring, but you won’t leave hungry, Thomas said. Appetizers will be provided.
“We’ll buy and grill up some (meat), but the whole idea is everyone brings something to contribute, and it just is all shared,” Thomas said. “Basically, we encourage people to bring meat donations and/or cash.”
When former Kirby’s owner Steve Schroeder died in 2008, those associated with Kirby’s thought it only proper that Meat Fest be a benefit for WSU students. Thomas bought the bar later that year.
“Steve was a big WSU fan, with us being right across the street,” Thomas said. “We decided to honor the previous owner … memorialize him and make it kind of dedicated to him.”
And thus the Kirby’s Steve Schroeder Memorial Scholarship was born.
That scholarship has since grown into an endowment fund with the Wichita State University Foundation, Thomas said, and portions of the endowment are disbursed annually.
Right now, the scholarship is benefiting pottery students, he said.
As Thomas began acquiring more bars in Wichita – Lucky’s Everyday in 2012 and Barleycorn’s in 2015 – Meat Fest started to spread out across bars.
And as the festival spread and diversified, so did the giving.
For a cause
Proceeds from Friday night at Barleycorn’s will go entirely to Free Music ICT, a project of local musician Zack Roach.
Free Music ICT is simply that.
Roach, who has been playing guitar since he was 7 years old, returned to Wichita in January 2015 after playing (and touring) with the band Senses Fail for the previous seven years.
His project, Free Music ICT, will give free guitar lessons to students in need at Wichita public schools and at the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Central Kansas.
The program is funded through private donations and an online pledge site, Patreon. Roach is working on obtaining nonprofit status so that funding his organization will be tax-deductible.
“I’m just trying to get these kids to understand (the guitar) is a great instrument to learn on,” Roach said. “It’s super easy to take care of. It’s kind of expensive to start, but that’s what my program is all about.”
Roach plays locally with the bands Spirit of the Stairs and Bridegeist.
All the bands playing Friday night are friends of Roach’s, including Jenny Wood, whom Roach plans to partner with in the future.
For the past nine months or so, Wood has devoted her time to taking an anti-bullying campaign to Wichita schools, and writing empowering, self-affirming songs.
“Especially now, it’s a really important message to believe in yourself, see how you shine, follow your dreams and all that,” Wood said. “It’s an effort that does something in me that makes me feel really good – a message of empowerment and hope.”
Wood will have more information about her program at Barleycorn’s on Friday.
Roach and Wood plan to host their own fundraisers separate from Meat Fest in the coming months.
Then on Sunday night, there will be an art show and auction at Lucky’s Everyday – the proceeds from which will go toward the WSU scholarship.
Meat Fest schedule
Friday at Barleycorn’s, 608 E. Douglas (proceeds go to Free Music ICT):
6-6:45 p.m. - Cy Rogers
6:45-7:30 p.m. - Ryan Windham
7:45-8:45 p.m. - Herd of the Huntress
9-10 p.m. - Jenny Wood Band
10:15-11:30 p.m. - Spirit of the Stairs
11:45 p.m.-12:45 a.m. - Kill Vargas
Friday at Kirby’s, 3227 E. 17th St. (Vegan Fest – bring vegan potluck items or grillable vegan foods; proceeds go to Kirby’s Steve Schroeder Memorial Scholarship):
6-6:30 p.m. - St. Cecelia’s Jubilee
6:45-7:15 p.m. - Kill It With Fire!
7:30-8:30 p.m. - Filius Sol
8:45-9:45 p.m. - Godhat
10-11 p.m. - Living Ghost
11:15 p.m.-12:15 a.m. - Domestic Drone
12:30 a.m.-close - King Slug
Saturday at Kirby’s (proceeds go to Kirby’s Steve Schroeder Memorial Scholarship):
12:15-12:45 p.m. - Piranhas
1-1:30 p.m. - Maria Elena
1:45-2:30 p.m. - Julian Davis
2:45-3:30 p.m. - Albert One Man Band
3:45- 4:30 p.m. - Bad Hombres
4:45-5:30 p.m. - False Flag
5:45-6:45 p.m. - New Imperialism
7-8 p.m. - Sun and Stone
8:15-9:15 p.m. - Candy Lords
9:30-10:30 p.m. - The Travel Guide
10:45-11:45 p.m. - Divorce Corpse
Midnight-close - Carrie Nation and The Speakeasy
Sunday at Lucky’s Everyday, 1217 E. Douglas (proceeds go to Kirby’s Steve Schroeder Memorial Scholarship):
6 p.m. Art auction