Garden Citians wandering into Day 2 of the city’s annual Tumbleweed Festival were greeted with the boom of the main stage near the south entrance and the scattered pockets of lawn chairs and picnic tables surrounding it.

The music festival, a staple of Garden City for more than 20 years, stretched back through the West Green of Lee Richardson Zoo. To-be audience members with lawn chairs slung over shoulders walked back and forth, past a line of homegrown food trucks and the shouts and strums of kids' shows and activities. Near the north end of the festival, the atmosphere grew quieter again, with onlookers lounging in the shade listening to cool tunes at the open mic community stage and smaller east stage.

On Friday night, patrons outlasted a storm to listen to local acts into the night, said festival coordinator, Sean Collins. On Saturday, they were just enjoying what the festival had to offer.

“The people who are from Garden City are happy but not surprised,” Collins said about the festival. “The people who come in for this event, especially the production companies and the artists, are blown away that we have this art and this culture in Garden City.”

This year’s festival booked 26 performers for its three main stages, including a children’s stage, along with periodic music workshops. The lineup followed “a rule of thirds,” Collins said — a third of the performers were new to the festival, a third had performed last year and a third were favorites from years past. The music spanned “everything from red dirt to folk to jazz to reggae,” Collins said. Some bands had a sound that was “almost indescribable.”

And this year, the festival would go beyond music. Garden City Arts hosted a children's art tent, complete with live art demonstrations by local artists and a hub of kids' and family activities.

Young kids with faces bright with face paint from the tent next door built Lego creations and stood in line for art-centric games. They created spin art by squirting paint on fast-rotating paper plates and built their own pinwheels and music makers.

Earlier this year, the Tumbleweed festival provided artists to play at Garden City Arts’ annual Art in the Park, said Garden City arts director Katy Guthrie. The art tent simply continued in that spirit of collaboration.

“I feel like it’s important because it offers something for everyone. It’s a little bit of everything going on here and it’s great for families … ” Guthrie said about the art tent. “People are liking the partnership so far.”

On the north end of the festival, locals gathered around a smaller stage, nearly on the same level as its pocket of an audience. The community stage, in its second year, gave local artists a chance to perform, some for the first time, said the stage’s coordinator Katie Prewitt. Musicians from Finney County and the surrounding area flocked to it or watched quietly on the sidelines, listening and preparing for their turn. More than one artist sat guitar in hand and case in the grass, taking in the sound of their fellow players.

“We’re all musicians … Big or small, we’re all doing the same thing and we all want to be heard and we all have a voice … ” Prewitt said. “Being able to be heard and have a platform to do that is sometimes hard to come by or sometimes harder to support it than you would think. And so, I think it’s important to focus on all of the music and what people are doing and what they have to put out there. Big and small, everyone needs to be heard.”

The festival is a longstanding and valuable event for Garden City, attendees said. Everyone appreciated the music and parents appreciated a space for their kids.

Tumbleweed is “the best-kept secret in southwest Kansas,” said audience member Debbie Tidwell. Usually locals have to travel across the state and pay twice to three times as much for the level of music that comes to their doorstep at the festival, said her husband, Russ. It gives locals a chance to meet musicians and fans from out of town and is good for the city, especially its kids, they said.

And it gave everyone in the area a chance to do what people don’t do enough, Debbie Tidwell said: dedicate time to music and art.

“The music that you choose becomes the soundtrack for the way you live,” said Russ Tidwell. “This is our soundtrack.”


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