Posted June 25, 2018 in News and Events by Jim Markel
Every fall the herd here at Red Oxx gets ready to show our appreciation for our customers, our city, and our local businesses, artists and musicians with a fun-filled gastronomic event. What began in 2015 as a prequel to our 30th Anniversary party in 2016 has grown into a Billings area newsworthy event that runs during the dog days of Montana’s Indian Summer.
Our first OXXFEST back in 2015 (nicknamed OXXtoberfest at the time) was an opportunity for Red Oxx to show its appreciation for our customers. A whole hog was smoked and after it was quickly consumed by the ravenous crowd, Jim realized that different approach was needed. Hungry Billings customers cleaned us out in short order leaving unhappy late-comers empty handed.
Being a fan of Food Truck gormandizing, Jim rounded up a few of his favorite Food Trucks for OXXFEST I participants to feast on. The idea was a huge hit, the Food Trucks sold out and swore to come back for OXXFEST II. Now it was a competition as word got around Billings and nearly a dozen fabulous Food Trucks lined up to dazzle the growing crowd with gastronomic success. The Herd voted on their favorite flavors, with defending, reigning, undisputed champion…FAT TACO taking away the grand prize two years in a row. So now the event became know as Yellowstone county’s fabulous fall “Food Truck Roundup”.
CEO Jim Markel has bigger plans for the adjacent property OXXFEST has been held on. He nicknamed the acreage "Mazabuka" after a small town in Zambia and roughly translated as "the sweetest place on Earth". While it may seem an odd name to call a plot of land in the middle of a blighted industrial district, Jim’s vision is one of an oasis in the desert. This property adjacent to our showroom once housed a few blighted buildings, including a auto repair garage, two run down occupied homes, a storage building and an empty gravel parking lot. Today the herd is transforming Mazabuka into an event center the entire community of Billings will be proud of and enjoy.
The corner plot once housed an old home where the Minister of Information for the Department of Red Oxx Affairs resided for seven years. Two years ago during OXXFEST II, the entire now vacant home became an art canvas, decorated and dubbed "Dead House" by local artist Emily Davidson. And so the idea for transforming the event, and the property, into a showcase for local Montana artists was born. Early in the spring of 2018, the “Dead House” passed on, bulldozed to make room at Mazabuka for more open space.
Dead House gets bull dozed.
The second home was remodeled by Jim into an artists studio and gallery, currently housing beautiful pyrographic art from GirlWood (AKA Melissa Burns). The studio opened at the end of May, 2018 and has been booming ever since. Said Melissa, "I think it’s important to have more venues for art. This is a unique venue, and it’s growing."
Jim stated, "It’s the old saying: If you build it, they will come…If I can gather these younger business people around me … the more the better."
Naturally local music lovers like Christian "Hafer", our Customer Care Manager & Corporate Sales Consultant, cherry picks some of the finest musicians in Yellowstone county to perform during the festival. The new plans for the Mazabuka event center now call for a permanent stage where musicians can work their magic above the crowd.
An idea emerges.
Surrounding the property, Jim and Red Oxx President Perry Jones are building a welded fence built from recycled steel. There may even be a railroad car for the stage backdrop, a nod to the heritage of Billings, a major Northern Pacific Railroad hub, so named after the company’s past president Frederick Billings.
So the OXXFEST event has grown to cater to over 500 hungry residents and visitors, it’s future guaranteed to entertain as Red Oxx works to develop and revitalize Mazabuka; a little corner of the East Billing Urban Revitalization District (EBURD), into a major attraction for art aficionados, music fans, and traveling tourists from around the world.