Dining With Denise Neil

Grub & Groove Festival will fill Jabara with fans of funk, soul food

T.O.P.S. Steaks and Hoagies will be one of the food vendors at Saturday’s Grube & Groove Festival.
T.O.P.S. Steaks and Hoagies will be one of the food vendors at Saturday’s Grube & Groove Festival.

People buying tickets over the past couple of months for this Saturday’s Grub & Groove Festival at Jabara Airport were drawn by the promise of an evening filled with old-school funk music and soul food, said Mark McCormick, the director of Wichita’s African American Museum.

But for many ticket buyers, McCormick said, supporting the festival seemed even more important than the content of the festival. Many remember a time when Wichita didn’t even have a radio station for blacks.

“It’s people in that generation in particular, the true audience for the musicians that are coming, who have turned this into a cause,” said McCormick, who through the museum provided assistance to the Kansas City-based promoter putting the festival on. “They’re saying, ‘We’re going to come out and support this. I’m tired of driving to Kansas City and Oklahoma City and Dallas and giving money to people there when we should be having stuff like this here.’ ”

The festival, scheduled for 3 to 11 p.m. Saturday at Jabara Airport, is being put on by Chuck Byrd, whose Platform Promotions stages similar events in large markets across the country. His Grub & Groove festival in Kansas City earlier this month attracted 6,000 people, he said, and he’s put on similar events in cities including Denver and Dallas.

Grub & Groove will feature performances by the Masters of Funk, a five-act lineup of bands responsible for many of the funk hits of the 1970s and ’80s: Lakeside (“Fantastic Voyage”), Bar-Kays (“Freakshow on the Dance Floor”), Con Funk Shun (“Love’s Train”), Dazz Band (“Let It Whip”) and Brick (“Dazz”). Jazz bass guitarist Julian Vaughn also will appear. The music will start at 5 p.m., and there will be a 15-minute intermission between each act.

Attendees also will be able to buy food from about 15 food vendors, some serving soul food items like macaroni and cheese, greens, yams and chicken and waffles. An Italian food vendor, a shaved-ice booth, barbecue booths and catfish vendors, including Lutfi’s Fried Fish & Chicken out of Kansas City, will also be there.

A few Wichita vendors signed up to participate, including local food truck Brickhouse BBQ and T.O.P.S. Steaks and Hoagies, which operates at 2251 E. 21st St. Former Mayor Carl Brewer, who also worked with Byrd to bring the festival to Wichita, will be there serving his barbecue bologna sandwiches. Brewer has been active on the competitive barbecue circuit. Meals will cost between $8 and $10, Byrd said.

“I’m really excited about trying that one myself,” Byrd said.

The festival, intended for ages 21 and older, will include several booths selling beer and mixed drinks. Organizers even have created a signature cocktail called the “Groove Sunshine” that’s made with tequila, grenadine and orange juice. Most drinks will cost between $5 and $7, Byrd said.

Planning for the festival was not without its hiccups, said both Byrd and McCormick, who have been collaborating on its organization for more than a year. Putting it on at an airport required an extra layer of red tape for vendors, Byrd said, and Byrd didn’t get tickets on sale as soon as he’d planned.

But once sales got going, tickets sold well, Byrd said. He expects a crowd of about 2,500 and said he has sold tickets to people who live in Omaha, Oklahoma City, Lawrence, Topeka and Hutchinson. When he first announced Grub & Groove, Byrd said he was hoping for a first-year crowd of 4,000.

Byrd made a three-year agreement with the city to rent Jabara, and McCormick said he expects the festival to grow and gain momentum after this year.

“The first time is the most difficult time,” McCormick said. “Some of the wrinkles we had are going to be smoothed out in subsequent years.”

If You Go

Grub & Groove Festival

What: A festival focused on old-school funk music and soul food

When: 3-11 p.m. Saturday

Where: Jabara Airport airfield, 35th Street North and Webb

Tickets: $65 for VIPs, who get reserved tables right by the stage; preferred seating tickets are just behind those and cost $45, with chairs provided; general admission tickets are $35, and those people are asked to bring lawn chairs for seating; all tickets are $5 more the day of the show.

Tickets and information: http://grubandgroovefestival.com

Do bring: Folding lawn chairs for those who have general admission tickets, small compact umbrellas for shade, cash, one bottle of water per person and medications, because no re-entry will be allowed

Do not bring: Weapons, coolers, outside food and drink, large umbrellas, chairs other than folding lawn chairs, pets