‘Strike Up the Band’ fits into Dodge City Days

Dodge City Days and its signature Roundup Rodeo have added pizzazz with its “Strike Up the Band” theme in commemoration of the 140th celebration of the Dodge City Cowboy Band.

Dodge City Days is July 25 through Aug. 4 and Dodge City Cowboy Band members are enjoying being in the spotlight not only to showcase their talents but to share in the rich western history of the community.

Bettye Young, the executive secretary for the past 12 years and a 22-year member of the band and a bass clarinet player, says the band has enjoyed being in the spotlight especially since the band’s ties to agriculture and cattle industry are intertwined.

Chalkley Beeson organized the band in 1879 at a time when cattle were being driven to “Wickedest City in America” and, though that moniker no longer fits, the cattle industry remains a staple to the economy and the Dodge City Cowboy Band has remained a staple, too.

Beeson’s vision was remarkable, Young said, and during a recent concert performance Kelly Knedler re-enacted the businessman much to the delight of those in attendance as he sang “Strike Up the Band.” The concert also featured entertainment by Boot Hill’s Can-Can dancers.

“It’s an honor to play in the band that has been around as long as it has for all these years,” Young said about her fellow bandmates as they think about the tradition. “It is pretty cool.”


Promotion of Dodge City

During the band’s formation 140 years ago by Beeson, a former sheriff and businessman, the band, which were all brass instruments, featured talented cowboys. The original Dodge City Cowboy Band consisted initially of six to eight members and later grew to 25 members. They played in the evenings in front of the Long Branch Saloon. Historical accounts indicated local cattlemen sponsored the band and the players went to cattle conventions in St. Louis, Missouri, Kansas City, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois.

The cattlemen’s association used the band to promote investment in the cattle industry in a growing Dodge City and also to show people in the big city that culture was alive and well if they chose to move here, Young said. While the band benefited from the exposure so did the community.

Today’s band consists of men and women from many ages and backgrounds, including those involved in the agriculture industry today. One of the players had to be excused so he could help his family with the recent wheat harvest. Young also has ties to the agriculture industry as she is a customer service executive with High Plains Journal, a publication that serves farmers and ranchers.

The band will play a half-hour concert at approximately 6 p.m. July 25, during a kickoff event at Central Station. The band will serve as the parade marshal at the annual Dodge City Days Western Parade, which is 9:30 a.m. July 27 and will be featured in the Longhorn cattle drive at 9 a.m. Aug. 3, along Wyatt Earp Boulevard. In the evening the Dodge City Cowboy Band will play the Star-Spangled Banner before the start of the Roundup Rodeo. The rodeo starts at 7:45 p.m. Aug. 3.


50 plus members in band

The Dodge City Cowboy Band consists of about 50 to 60 men and women who are directed by middle school band teacher Hollyann Sewell. The band plays at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays during the months of June and July in a band shell built in 1934, in Wright Park, near downtown Dodge City. A Christmas concert is also on its regular playing schedule.

The band opens each concert with the national anthem and follows it with Kansas’ state song, “Home on the Range.” Summer concerts feature classic marching band music from icons John Philip Souza and Karl King, Young said. The band also offers a range of repertoire from popular music to Disney tracks.

Other staples including recognizing out-of-staters who come to hear the band and a children’s march as kids are handed an American flag and they parade around the large audience that gathers to hear the band play, Young said. The band appreciates their attendance, she said, and feeds off that enthusiasm.

“This is the longest running band that continues to plays concerts in the country,” Young said. “People enjoy coming out to an evening concert in a historic park, it’s all part of an Americana experience and we enjoy the local support we get from the people who come to watch us every week.”

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Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].