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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Checking the numbers at Boot Hill Museum

  •      The summer season — from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day — is harvest time for Boot Hill Museum, the time when there are more visitors in town and all the museum's nightly activities are happening.


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  •      The summer season — from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day — is harvest time for Boot Hill Museum, the time when there are more visitors in town and all the museum's nightly activities are happening.
         Each year, the museum prepares for the summer season with repairs and improvements to the buildings, upgrades to the exhibits, training for staff and marketing and advertising to bring in visitors.
         And, on a daily basis, museum staff count the visitors, the number of people attending the variety show and the revenue in the shops and try to predict how the summer's going to be.
         "We're up slightly from last year right now," said Lara Brehm, executive director of the museum. "We were up more earlier in the summer but the heat really affected our numbers. You can look at our numbers and see when it got really hot."
         Brehm expects that the final summer numbers will be up slightly from last year when the season slows down around Labor Day. And that's good news in the middle of a recession, high gas prices, a drought and record heat.
         One of the staples of Boot Hill's activities is the Long Branch Variety Show, thought by museum officials to be the longest-running show of its kind in the country.
         Seven nights a week during the summer, since 1958, Miss Kitty and the cast of the variety show take to the stage to entertain audiences with songs, dances and comedy.
        Attendance has been up slightly at the variety show this year. "The numbers at the show usually track right along with the overall attendance," Brehm said.
         "We have a few cast members who've been with the show for ten years or more now, and it's really great to have that consistency and experience," Brehm said.
         Along with the country-style dinner and the nightly gunfight, the variety show is something locals and visitors alike look forward to every summer.
    At the helm
         Doug Austen has directed the Long Branch Variety Show for three years.
         Austen has connections with Boot Hill Museum that go back to the fall of 1980 when he worked there as stock boy.
         In the show this season, Brent Harris, plays Mr. Beeson.  Harris greets people as they arrive throughout the day and hosts them as they visit the museum.
         "People get really excited when Brent makes his entrance in the show," Austen said. "Because the feel like they know him."
         An evening at Boot Hill also still includes two popular elements: the gunfight and a meal.
         Austen, who collects Dodge City and Boot Hill memorabilia, put together a book entitled "Down at the Long Branch Saloon." The book, which was released in the spring of 2011, chronicles the history of the Long Branch Variety Show from its beginnings in 1958 to the present day.
    Page 2 of 2 -      Although no one does the show seven night a week except in emergencies, the cast of the variety show works together to put on a great show for the big, noisy crowds as well as the small, quiet ones.
         The show is, as it has been since 1958, a great training ground for young performers and a fun way to take visitors on a trip back to Dodge City's early days.
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