This weekend, music and mutton will mesh at the popular Kirby's Beer Store for the 10th anniversary of Meat Fest.
More than 15 bands will play during the two-day event, which brings together fans of the Wichita music scene over the flames of a warm grill. For the second year in a row, the festivities will serve as a fund-raiser for the Steve Schroeder Memorial Fund.
"It's like a music tailgate," said Kirby's owner Alex Thomas. "It's an event people have loved for years. No one feels like going out in the dead of winter, but this is the event they'll show up for."
Those who do show up will hear from a large roster of local favorites. Acoustic guitarist Lucy Alfonso, folk rock/roots group Ragman's Wagon, and the popular metal rock ensemble Gulch are part of today's lineup.
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Saturday will feature bluegrass darling Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy, indie bands Japanese Game Show and the Chime Owls, and big-beat Americana sensation The Honkey Tonk Devils. A full schedule is available at www.kirbysbeerstore.com.
More than just a communal music festival, Meat Fest is a time for the Kirby's crowd to honor a local legend. When long-time owner Steve Schroeder died unexpectedly in 2008 and Thomas took over, he wanted to do something to memorialize him. A scholarship fund was established that Thomas hopes will become an endowment for fine arts students at Wichita State University. It is being administered through the WSU Foundation.
"Steve loved WSU and really cared a lot about the arts community," Thomas said. "He was a former educator himself. We wanted to do something that would honor the things he valued the most."
Kirby's is on 17th Street just south of the campus, and over the years has drawn many patrons from the school.
Last year, more than $1,600 was raised during Meat Fest for the memorial fund. By expanding Meat Fest to two days, Thomas hopes to bring in more. Ten percent of all sales will go toward the fund. A tip jar will be out during the event, where cash and check donations will be collected. There will also be live auctions both days featuring art, gift baskets, trendy clothes, collectibles, Wichita band memorabilia and more.
Anyone is welcome to take meat to Meat Fest and it will be prepared on a grill set up outside the bar. It will be served family-style on a first-come, first-served basis.
"It's a very communal, community-oriented affair," Thomas said. "You'll see students, but also people who have been coming to the bar since it opened in the '70s."
Chris Hicks, a Wichita State student and regular patron, compared Kirby's to a history book.
"The walls are covered with history of what has happened there," he said. "It's a learning experience every time you step through the door. It's also a welcoming environment, regardless of political beliefs, social beliefs or religious beliefs. Everyone is accepted for who they are."
It's that spirit that Thomas hopes brings people out, not only to enjoy food and music, but also to be part of an important cause.
"Meat Fest really magnifies the Kirby's culture," he said.
If you go
10th meat fest
What: Two days of live music, food and auctions to raise money for the Steve Schroeder Memorial Fund.
Where: Kirby's Beer Store, 3227 E. 17th St.
When: 6 p.m.-1:45 a.m. today and 3 p.m.-1:45 a.m. Saturday
How much: Admission free. Donations accepted at the bar or may be mailed to the WSU Foundation, 1845 Fairmount, Box 2, Wichita, KS 67260-0002. Attention should be noted to the Steve Schroeder Memorial Fund.