Every Tuesday morning at Bluestem Bistro, the typical buzz of college students is replaced by the joyful disharmony of young children. They join manager Steve Keck, or Mr. Steve as the kids know him, in song.
Over sips of coffee and the clicking of computer keys, their voices can be heard singing children’s classics like The Hokey Pokey, Old MacDonald Had a Farm and Keck’s favorite, If You’re Happy and You Know It.
Though a multitude of kid’s songs exist, many of which most parents are probably more familiar with than they would like to be, Keck said he likes to stick to classic songs that all the children can recognize.
Each week the kids are given shakers, while Keck said some bring their own instruments, like harmonicas and drums. Jamming is serious business for them.
These Tuesday sing-alongs have been going on for about two years now. Keck said the idea started from owner Kevin Peirce.
Though the concept took some time to take off, Keck said, particularly now that pre-school is out, about 30 kids show up every week with their parents, primarily their moms.
During the summertime, the sing-alongs usually take place on the outdoor patio. Colorful mats are set up in front of Keck for the children to sit and dance on, while their parents sit in chairs around them.
Cory Richards, who brings her four and two-year-old, said Keck knows all the kids by name and has a special high-five ritual with them. Her boys, who are at a rambunctious age, she said, enjoy songs with action, such as the Hokey Pokey.
Other children’s favorites are the Raindrop Song, the ABCs, Wheels on the Bus and two-year-old Ty Fisher’s favorite, “the choo choo song.”
Sierra Fisher, Ty’s mom, drives every week from Fort Riley, and said she usually brings her five-year-old daughter. Both, she said, love going, and Fisher said she’s just happy to see them interacting with other children and getting up and moving around.
The chance for the children to meet kids their age brings a lot of parents to the sing-alongs. “This is a good opportunity for them to learn to share and interact and be polite with one another,” Amber Blomme said.
Blomme brings her two-year-old son Adam and her three-month old twins Hudson and Mason, and like Richards, has been going almost since the beginning.
Brittany Conlin, who brings her children, Nora and Atticus, said the sing-along is also a chance for children to learn how to share and to respect other people’s space. Plus she said, she loves to “watch the kids move and groove and I like singing along too.”
Because some of the families have been going from the beginning, Keck said he has been able to watch the children grow and has seen a transition from the older siblings to the younger ones.
Richards said she started going when her boys, Will, 4, and Wes, 2, were, respectively, 2 and not even one year. Keck said the average age of the children is about one to five years.
But the sing-alongs have become as much for the moms as for the children.
While some dads attend, Keck said most children are brought by their mothers, who take the opportunity to catch up with friends.
Richards said they live nearby and are able to walk over and go to the park with friends afterward. She said the sing-along is a good way for stay-at-home moms to get out and be social.
After hearing about it, Richards said she thought, “This will be great for the kids.” But, she added, “It totally ended up being about me.”
Fisher and Blomme agree, while Conlin said she is also a part of Little Apple Mommies, a group that helps parents meet other local parents and their children for play dates.
Keck, who has worked at Bluestem Bistro for about six years, said he has been playing guitar for approximately that same time.
“I started out playing bass but got to college and learned that bass isn’t very fun by yourself,” he said. Keck, who is from Topeka, graduated from Kansas State University two years ago with a degree in psychology. His wife, Amber, also graduated from K-State and works at the Manhattan Public Library.
Keck, who doesn’t have children, said he is used to working with them because he and his wife help out with the three-year-olds at their church.
He has only missed the sing-along twice, he said, when he was on vacation, and though he used to play music in a more adult setting, he said, “this is more fun.”
Sing-along with Mr. Steve is every Tuesday at 9:30 to 10 a.m. at Bluestem Bistro, 1219 Moro St. in Aggieville.