It all started with the first world premiere of a movie outside of Hollywood.
When the movie "Dodge City" premiered here in Dodge City on April 1, 1939, Warner Brothers, the producers of the movie, insisted as part the movie’s premiere Dodge City be decorated with a western theme, that everyone wear western clothing for the premiere and that the City have an authentic rodeo.
There was not enough time to stage a full-fledged rodeo on April 1, so in May the Great Southwest Free Fair Association sponsored the Boot Hill Round-up, Dodge City’s first annual rodeo, at McCarty stadium. Warner Brothers supplied much of the equipment. The final performance on Sunday afternoon of the three-day affair drew a crowd of 6,000.
Later the RCA Rodeo moved to summer and Boot Hill Fiesta parade started in May 1950. "Dodge City Days" officially began in 1960 when the two events merged into a 3-day July festival. Organizers later expanded Dodge City Days to 6 days before further increasing it to its current 10-day run.
In the 1970s the rodeo nearly folded, but was reorganized as the current Dodge City Days Round-Up Rodeo in 1977, and the latest arena was built east of 14th Avenue just south of the Arkansas River.
Today Dodge City Days, the second largest festival in Kansas, is much more than a 5-day rodeo and a parade. Events, too numerous to list here, include concerts, dances, food, an art show, a car show, games and tournaments.
On the first full day of the festivities, Boot Hill Museum puts on its Bull Fry Bash. First held in 2002, attendees enjoy that delicacy called calf fries or beef brisket along with sides.
Another popular event at the museum is the Fidelity State Bank Chuckwagon Breakfast. The bank spends weeks planning the meal which includes eggs, biscuits, gravy, sausage, and a beverage along with entertainment. Staff from the bank work non-stop for more than 24 hours just before and during the event, with proceeds from the breakfast going to Boot Hill Museum.
The Jaycees started this breakfast in 1981, or earlier, at the Dodge House Hotel. In 1983, Fidelity State Bank took over the breakfast and moved it to Boot Hill Museum. 1984 was a notable year for the Chuckwagon Breakfast as weatherman, Willard Scott from NBC’s Today Show, made an appearance. Fidelity Bank employees serve breakfast on early Wednesday morning during the height of the festival.
On the second Saturday of Dodge City Days the biggest Boot Hill Museum gunfight goes down. At first the gunfighters staged a train robbery with a train car furnished by the A.T. & S.F. on the railroad tracks. In 1996, the gunfight moved onto the museum grounds.
Dodge City Days, sponsored by the Dodge City Chamber of Commerce, is recognized as the second largest community celebration in Kansas and is topped only by the Wichita River Festival. Thousands of people come to this 10-day festival which generates approximately $3 million dollars. However, the economic impact on Dodge City is approximately $9 million dollars. Authorities estimate that 100,000 individuals attend at least one Dodge City Days event.
Kathie Bell us the curator of collections and education for Boot Hill Museum.