The tiny town of Paxico, Kansas, has a population of 200 for 364 days of the year. But on the third Saturday of September every year, Paxico bulges at the seams with blues music fans from across the state and points beyond. Marvine McKeithen, co-founder of the festival with Bud Hund, exclaims, “We have counted unofficially 8000 people who have attended over the 13 years of the fest. We’ve had people come from overseas!”
This year’s festival featured headliners Hamilton Loomis, Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal, and the Hector Anchondo Band. The stage is set up right downtown in front of the local antique stores which have a steady flow of customers throughout the day. Vendors hawking hats, food, and freshly-squeezed lemonade, a big hit on this sunny and very warm day, line the street. Blues fans are welcome to bring their lawn chairs, blues-loving pooches, and coolers full of their favorite beverages.
Internationally-known artists such as Bart Walker, Samantha Fish, Cassie Taylor, and Anthony Gomes have been featured in Paxico. Marvine holds a special place in her heart for Paxico alumni Trampled Under Foot. “I gave Danielle [Schnebelen] her start at my club in Kansas City.”
Marvine, who will soon be 84, had owned Club Paradox in Kansas City and run the Kansas City Street Blues Festival for nine years until she returned to her native Paxico with the idea of starting a blues festival in in her hometown, located just 25 miles of the capital city of Topeka. She stipulated that it had to be a free festival, and so it is supported by local merchants and donations. Marvine explains, “Without Bud’s help, I couldn’t have done it. He gets everyone from Paxico and spreads the word to all the businesses west of here while I do the same thing in Kansas City.”