The Dodge City Trail of Fame came about as a way to attract more foot traffic in the historic downtown area and as a way to connect the Boot Hill Museum on the west side of the area with the Santa Fe Depot on the east side.
The Trail now boasts 27 sidewalk medallions honoring characters important to Dodge City history, from Wyatt Earp to the cast of "Gunsmoke."
The trail committee formed in 2002 and inducted their first honoree in 2003. Dennis Weaver, who played Chester on "Gunsmoke," came to town, spoke and sang at the banquet and put his signature and hand prints in the wet concrete surrounding his medallion.
The first medallions were partly funded by a grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce's Attraction Development Program.
"We worked with Downtown Dodge for the first grant, since the Trail wasn't an established organization yet," said Jim Johnson, one of the Trail's founders and currently president of the board.
"Later we worked through the community foundation and eventually got our own 501(c)(3) designation as a non-profit organization," he said.
In 2004 Buck Taylor, also a member of the "Gunsmoke" cast, was in town to be inducted.
And in 2005 Johnson and other members of the Trail of Fame committee traveled to California with a medallion and bag of cement. They spent the day at James Arness' home, where he signed the medallion. Arness was unable to travel but wanted to acknowledge the honor.
In 2005 the Trail of Fame hosted the national celebration of "Gunsmoke's" 50th anniversary with a weekend full of events. Writers, actors and producers who worked on the series came to talk about the experience. Mrs. James Arness and her son spoke at the banquet. And, perhaps the highlight of the event, Arness, Weaver and Taylor participated in a 45-minute conference call which the banquet audience got to hear. They talked about their fond memories of working on the television series and it was clear they had formed lasting friendships.
Trail of Fame hosted a second anniversary celebration for the show in 2010.
Now regularly installing about two new medallions each year, the committee decided to take on a larger project.
They commissioned a statue of Wyatt Earp from sculptor Mary Spurgeon. They raised the money to pay for it. And they installed it alongside the street named for Dodge City's famous lawman in 2004.
Plans are currently underway for a second statue. The statue will feature another iconic Dodge City figure, Doc Holliday, lifelong friend of Wyatt Earp.
Holliday was a frontier dentist and gambler. He was one of the men involved in the shoot-out at the OK Corral. He died of tuberculosis in Colorado.
Holliday's statue will portray him sitting at a poker table. Tourists will be able to sit in one of the empty chairs at the table and have their picture taken playing a hand of poker with Doc Holliday.
Page 2 of 2 - "The artist was in town recently for a reception," Johnson said. "And we've had a lot of positive interest in the project."
A location for the Holliday statue has not been determined.
Meanwhile, fundraising continues for the project.
"We'll have the finished maquette soon then we'll have that cast," Johnson said.
The maquette is a small version of the statue produced by the artist using wax. The casts will be bronze and the Trail of Fame committee will sell the small statues for $1,500 each.
"We did the same with the Wyatt Earp statue," Johnson said. "And we've already had some people who purchased those reserve their Holliday piece."
Johnson is making a waiting list for those who would like Holliday statues. Call 561-1925 and leave a message.
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The Trail of Fame requested $16,000 in organizational funding for 2013.
"We'll use most of that to contract Charlie Meade and some to help market our fundraising efforts for the Holliday sculpture," Johnson said.
Meade serves as an ambassador for Dodge City and gives walking tours year-round. He stops by the motels and the bed and breakfast to visit with travelers. He customizes tours by length and time of day. He works out of the visitor center during the summer.
"Charlie is an amazing asset," Johnson said. "He brings people to the downtown area that might not have been planning to stop there and he really makes Dodge City history come alive."
The Trail of Fame has established an office in Eryn's Downtown Center (the old Eckles building). The office includes a mini-museum with "Gunsmoke" artifacts and the Trail hopes to have the office staffed three to four days each week during the summer.
The Trail continues to add medallions.
"We'll use any money we raise above the cost of the Holliday statue to start a fund for the next statue, which will be Bat Masterson," Johnson said.
"One of our challenges is trying to get merchants to stop using ice melts that have calcium chloride or sodium chloride. They really eat the metal away."
"We'd like the public to know that the Trail of Fame is not funded by any agency. We've raised every dime we've spent. We have no paid employees and we're committed to marketing Dodge City's history," Johnson said.
The Trail's website has more information and can be found at www.dodgecitytrailoffame.org.
This is the second in a series of weekly stories about Dodge City's tourism organizations and attractions.
Follow Don Steele on Twitter @Don_dcglobe.