You know summer has almost arrived when the smell of BBQ is in the air and the outdoor festivals begin. Since April's weather can be so finicky, it's usually smart to hold out until May to start planning outdoor events. With that in mind, it's fair to say festival season has unofficially started when the Bixby Rotary Club kicks things off with the Ninth Annual Bixby Blues and Music festival, May 7 and 8.
This event has transformed throughout the years, originally focusing on blues, then migrating to where it is now with a mixture of tunes and a focus on local and regional artists.
Live music is a key ingredient to drawing me out initially, but after catching my first event at Washington Irving Memorial Park, E. 137th and S. Memorial, the promise of some killer BBQ is enough for me to set my calendar by this festival.
Of course, having some good music is always a bonus, but the Rotary Club has stayed focused on what the event is really about: a great BBQ exhibition and raising money for the community. Proceeds from past events have gone toward constructing the electronic Bixby Public Schools sign, which was funded by the festival's first two years, design and construction of the amphitheater in Washington Irving Memorial Park, support of multiple youth and public school programs and donations to organizations such as Bixby Community Outreach Center (BCOC) and Daily Family YMCA.
For those who are BBQ minded, this is one of the best events of the year. Although a variety of vendors will be out and providing concessions throughout the weekend, the true BBQ enthusiast will want to make sure and be there Saturday between 11am and 1:30pm to buy a Taster's Kit. A limited number are available, but for only $5, you can help judge the "People's Choice" award and sample from any of the vendors participating in the people's choice competition.
As of press time, 88 teams had already registered for this year's BBQ festival and competition and if tradition holds, last-minute entries will likely push the total to nearly 100 entries.
As one of 25 stops on the official Kansas City Barbeque Society great American BBQ Tour, you can be sure this will be an event for true barbeque connoisseurs. Between the vendors, competitors, tasting kits and cooking demonstrations, this weekend is a BBQ lover's dream.
Of course, not everyone is as over-the-top for barbeque as some of us are, so the rotary club has made sure to make this an event which can appeal to everyone, including the kids. As in years past, there will again be a Kids Zone with a variety of activities, including a paintball target shooting range, free carnival games, face painting and magic shows. Additionally, the Rotary Club has also rented a host of jumpers to keep the kids occupied and is offering an all-day "jumper pass" for only $12, for those who plan to settle in at the park.
If you haven't been out to the BBQ and Music festival before, rest assured, it's a full day's worth of activity.
Aside from the barbecue and kids activities, the rotary club knows that entertainment is a key part of a successful event and they haven't overlooked that aspect. Even though blues and BBQ go hand in hand, a combination of economic conditions, competition for talent with other blues festivals and public demand has seen the festival move toward favoring local and regional artists during the past few years. Blues is still part of the package with acts like Bluehemians, David Dover and The Roland Bowling Band, but rock, pop and country have worked their way in as well, in order to appeal to everyone.
As would be expected, when the festival opens on Friday, it's predominantly an evening event, allowing the crowd to filter in after work. Music will start on the amphitheater stage at 6:30pm with Bluehemians kicking the evening off before turning things over to Brandon Clark Band at 8pm, followed by Mid Life Crisis at 9:30pm to wrap up the evening.
Saturday, May 8, is a full day as the music starts early enough to keep up with the BBQ competition. Travis Kidd will open the stage at 11am, followed by London Tymes at 12:30pm and Oklahoma City's Roland Bowling Band at 2pm. The mid afternoon and early evening slots are filled by local acts David Dover at 3:30pm, Mary Cogan at 5pm and Banana Seat at 6:30pm. The festivities will then wrap up with headliners Candy Coburn at 8pm and Tulsa native Jenny Labow with Jimmy Newquist (of Caroline's Spine) at 9:30pm.
Perhaps the best part of this event, aside from the BBQ and music, is the fact that it's settled into such a nice site at Washington Irving Memorial Park, yet admission is free. Parking is $5 per vehicle, but after that, you're only paying for your food and drink (and maybe your kids' jump pass). With a promise of good weather, great food and some cool music, this is definitely the way to kick off the festival season.
Washington Irving Memorial Park is easy to find, located just off of S. Memorial at E. 137th St. in Bixby. Directions and further details can be found online at www.bixbyrotarybbq.com.
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