The staff from Fidelity State Bank may be short on sleep Wednesday morning but they won't be lacking in what really matters- breakfast.

     The staff from Fidelity State Bank may be short on sleep Wednesday morning but they won't be lacking in what really matters- breakfast.
     Fidelity State bank is sponsoring the annual Chuckwagon Breakfast for their 30th consecutive year and according staff at the bank, they've got food preparation and local satisfaction down to a science.
     Bank officers began setting up for the breakfast at Boot Hill the day before the feast begins. Cooking equipment is brought out and assembled. Volunteers from Youthville are enlisted in arranging seating- cement blocks connecting 2 by 12's to make benches, all of which are donated by Mead Lumber. Then, in the evening, the cooking begins and lasts until nearly the next morning.
     “Everyone has their own little niches that they like to have,” Smithhisler said. “I like to do the gravy.”
     But being the gravy chef can have it's ups and downs. Smithhisler has to report back to Boot Hill at 4:30 the next morning. He also has to pay close attention to how much spice he puts into the essential and highly anticipated gravy.
     “One year I put too much cayenne in it and half the people loved and half the people hated it,” Smithhisler laughed.
     Once the eggs are scrambled, the biscuits are warmed, the sausage patties are browned and the coffee is steaming, the gates at Boot Hill swing open and welcome the crowd.
     Fidelity State Bank President Ben Zimmerman III, said the moment when the gates first open up is his favorite part of the breakfast. Zimmerman and his wife Candy greet each guest as they approach the serving line.
     2000 people are expected to attend the Chuckwagon Breakfast they year.
     “People starting lining up before the gates open,” Smithhisler said. “It's a simple breakfast but it really is quite a social event.”
     In contrast to many of the Dodge City Days event, the Chuckwagon breakfast offers guests a chance to be outside before the blistering heat begins.
     “It's an annual event for a lot of the senior citizens in the area,” Smithhisler said.
     Kathy Tuxhorn, the assistant vice president at Fidelity, agrees.
     She has worked at every one of the bank's Chuckwagon Breakfasts and said the meal is the main Dodge City Days event for many elderly people in the community. Some even sit at the same bench every year with friends and family.
     The staff at Fidelity makes special accommodations so handicapped and disabled people are able to come and enjoy the morning meal.
     “We make sure there is easy access in to the breakfast and accessible seating,” Smithhisler said. “We want it to be easy for them to get around.”
     In the past, residents of local nursing homes, children from day care facilities, and clients from Arrowhead West have been able to enjoy the pre-dawn breakfast with the help of Fidelity's employees.
     Tuxhorn said most of the attendees spend the full two-hours of the breakfast soaking in the conversation, food and morning sun.
     “It's just like church,” she said.
     In her 30 years working the breakfast, rain has only dampened the festivities once. And the hungry crowd still didn't leave but instead moved under the eaves of the buildings. Another year, a woman in charge of cooking the eggs unknowingly put them in a metal bowl to be scrambled. Unfortunately, eggs and metal bowls don't mix well and the raw eggs waiting to be scrambled turned green.
     Tuxhorn laughingly said the eggs were thrown out and the scrambling process was restarted.
     Her favorite year though, was in the mid-80's when NBC's Willard Scott came and did the weather live from Boot Hill.
     “We had nearly 4500 people that year. Boot Hill was completely packed,” she said. “We made sure to have extra food.”
     This year, Barry Ward, a local singer-songwriter from Montezuma is scheduled to entertain breakfast-goers once again. This will be his twelfth year performing at the Chuckwagon Breakfast.
     Once 8:30 rolls around and the gallons of coffee and milk are gone, Fidelity employees will begin the clean-up process. When the bank opens at 10 a.m., they will begin another regular day, even if it is a little longer than most.
     “Every one enjoys it,” Smithhisler said. “It's worth it to us because it's different than other Dodge City Days events. It's a tradition.”

If you go:
What: 30th annual Chuckwagon Breakfast: scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy, orange drink, milk and all the coffee you want to drink
When: 6:30-8:30 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 1
Where: Boot Hill Museum
Cost: $2, proceeds go to the Boot Hill Museum. Tickets are available at all three Fidelity State Bank locations in Dodge City.