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Boot Hill Museum planned to hold a grand reopening after the completion of its initial expansion project, but with the interruptions caused by COVID-19, it was pushed back to fall in line with Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan for a phased reopening of the state.


Boot Hill Museum’s Laura Tawater said the museum was then set to reopen sometime in mid-May, but that again was delayed by institution of a new Phase 1.5.


Despite these postponements, Boot Hill Museum continues to work on its reopening plan.


"We have finalized a reopening plan, we just don’t have dates at the moment," Tawater said. "So, we’re going to do kind of a phased plan for the summer, because Memorial (Day) weekend was our summer opening season, where we typically opened from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, so our times are going to change a little bit."


Tawater said museum staff are optimistic for an increase in regional tourism when people feel safe to travel again, citing restlessness from being urged to stay safe in their homes for so long. She said they suspect it will mostly be people from the region and other local surroundings because, despite Boot Hill Museum being world renowned, air travel restrictions are likely to remain in place.


Boot Hill Museum’s reopening plan is separated into three phases that are set to unfold during the summer.


The first phase includes being able to provide the entertainment guests have been able to expect from Boot Hill Museum within newly limited hours of operation.


These include being able to walk through the museum, the gunfighting shows and the Long Branch Variety Show, the latter slated to be held outside rather than inside the Long Branch Saloon where it traditionally has been shown. Additionally, the gunfights and variety show will now be included with the price of a general admission ticket.


Boot Hill Museum will make use of the new building’s shaded patio to maintain comfort for a large number of people outdoors while practicing social distancing.


As patrons go through the museum’s exhibits, they will be subject to temperature checks and will have access to several sanitizing stations and personal protective equipment (PPE) available at their discretion. These measures will be provided to and required by staff as well.


The second phase will add shows and other events to nighttime hours, still following PPE and social distancing practices.


The third phase is pending the opening of other activities and events to the summer schedule, including serving the regular Chuck Wagon dinners and opening the sandwich shop and ice cream parlor.


The plan is to transition from concession stand-style food and bottled beverages to full dinners during the evenings.


Ford County residents will be able to tour exhibits and watch shows for free, but ticket prices for non-county residents are still being discussed.


Tawater said that despite the fabricators from Iowa and Illinois being subject to more stringent stay-at-home orders in their states, the museum plans to have the rest of its exhibits ready before summer ends.


The new building will host nine new exhibits for patrons to see.


"These exhibits are organized chronologically," said Tawater. "We talk about the American Indians, the cattle drives, the railroads, the buffalo, some of the natural disasters that occurred here that we’ve been through, and just some major well-known characters."


Newly incorporated technology, such as audio-capable information screens, interactive displays and touch exhibits, like the donated former McDonalds stagecoach that people will able to sit in, is set to improve visitors’ experience.


Other additions will feature new displays, a space for temporary exhibits that will rotate with collections from other venues, and transparent guards in the new gift shop.


Tawater said the museum planned to open with a schedule that coincided with the individual reopening plans of Boot Hill Casino & Resort and Dodge City Convention and Visitors Bureau but had to change that plan.


Boot Hill Casino & Resort is set welcome back visitors soon as the state enters the second phase of reopening, which includes the opening of state-owned casinos.


"As part of our reopening plan, we have several safety measures in place including, but not limited to, personal protective equipment available for guests and team members, temperature checks at entrances, limited hours to allow thorough cleanings and limited offerings to adhere to social distancing and other new guidelines," said general manager Diane Giardine. "We know that these changes may affect peoples’ experiences at Boot Hill Casino & Resort, but we remain committed to providing a fun and exciting entertainment destination for everyone to enjoy."


Giardine said they will continue to prioritize the safety of guests and staff as they evaluate their personal timeline while being subject to the conditions and mandates of the governor’s reopening plan.


For the most up-to-date information about Boot Hill Casino & Resort, visit its Facebook page or boothillcasino.com.


To learn more about Boot Hill Museum’s plans, call 620-227-8188, email info@boothill.org or check out its Facebook page.