The Long Branch Variety Show, the longest running show of its kind in the nation, will celebrate it's 55th anniversary this Thursday.
"We had our first performance exactly 55 years ago from that date," show director Doug Austen said, "on July 4 1958."
According to the Boot Hill Museum's website, the show was created by local optometrist Lewis Mock and his wife Rosemary. They approached the museum board about putting on a saloon-type show in the newly re-constructed Long Branch Saloon. The first show featured Mock playing his signature ragtime piano, the first can-can dancers and Mrs. Mock as Dora Hand.
Not much from the show has changed over the years, but one notable exception is the changing of the leading lady from the historical figure Dora Hand to the world-renowned Miss Kitty.
"She was named Dora Hand for the first few years," Austen said, "but then they realized that they could capitalize on the popularity of Gunsmoke by changing her name to Miss Kitty."
This year, to celebrate the historic anniversary, the Long Branch is putting together a special show.
"We've partnered with the Dodge City Cowboy Band, another historic part of Dodge City," Austen said, "and we'll have patriotic music and a variety show to entertain guests."
As always, there will be a country-style dinner before the show and the famous gun fight before the variety show.
"The gun fight will begin at 7 and the show will start at 7:30," Austen said. "We're probably going to run about an hour and a half, because of the band, but we should be done by 9, so people will still have time to get up to see the fireworks."
Everything, except the dinner, will take place in a tent outside of the Long Branch so that more people can attend. According to Austen, the saloon can only seat about 100 people, but there will be much more room outside, so there's no limit to the number of people who can attend this special celebration show.
Austen has been the director of the variety show for four years now, but has been involved for 15. He started out as a bartender/ stage manager then played the piano before becoming director.
Other activities are planned at Boot Hill throughout the day including a watermelon seed spitting contest, can-can dancing lessons and deputy training, a re-creation of the Ed Masterson shooting will take place at 4 p.m. and other fun games and things for kids to do will go on throughout the day.
"You can really come out to Boot Hill and make a day of it," Austen said. "There will be plenty for everyone to enjoy, and you can still catch the fireworks that night too!"
Tickets do not need to be purchased in advance, but is recommended if you would like the country-style dinner.