Main Street Kansas: Friday night jam session in the Flint Hills

Main Street Kansas

COTTONWOOD FALLS, Kan. (KSNW) – If you’re looking for harmony this Christmas season, it takes center stage every Friday night in Cottonwood Falls.

Christmas lights decorate Cottonwood Fall’s downtown.

Anyone who wants to make music is invited to a jam session.

“Me, I’ve only been playing here about eight years,” said Gary Grove of El Dorado. “There’s people who’s been here 20-something years”

It’s not a competition or even a concert, just friends sharing a song, and everyone joins in.

“People will step up and help ’em out, sing background or play the music,” said Grove.

In the audience, tapping toes and bobbing heads help keep time.

Darrell Merry and his wife are regulars from Olpe, Kansas.

“It’s a nice, friendly atmosphere,” said Merry. “We about know everybody now.”

“I just love toe-tapping live music,” said Carolyn Hutchins from Toledo, Kansas. She and her husband have rarely missed a show in four years.

The long-standing tradition is called Emma Chase Friday Night Music, after the restaurant where it started. Years later, the cafe is closed, but the music continues.

From week to week, there’s no telling who’s going to be on stage or in the audience. and you’ll see every kind of instrument.

Anything you can strum, pick or pluck is welcome. It’s not unusual to see ukeleles, banjos, steel guitars, or an accordion.

“A saw. They played a saw,” said Hutchins with a grin.

Each week is supposed to be a certain genre of music, from bluegrass to rock and roll, but no one is turned away.

“Recently someone played How Much Is That Doggy In The Window? on gospel night,” laughed Rodney Bates, one of the organizers who drives in from Strong City.

The jam session moves outside when the weather is nice.

They might head outside when the weather’s nice and play right in the street. Fans know to bring a lawn chair.

“Yea, you can just relax and wind down,” said Merry.

Happy or heartfelt, slow or snappy, this mash-up of music just seems to work, striking a chord of fellowship so many are hungry to hear.

“I mean we’ve had people from Australia. We’ve had people from Germany. We’ve had people from all over the state,” said Grove.

The jam session runs 7:30 – 10 p.m. each Friday night at Prairie PastTimes, 220 1/2 Broadway in Cottonwood Falls.

Click here for the schedule of music.

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