Gov. Laura Kelly attends Boot Hill Museum expansion opening

Vincent Marshall
Dodge City Daily Globe
Gov. Laura Kelly makes remarks at Boot Hill Museum dedication on Thursday in Dodge City.

Boot Hill Museum, the cornerstone of Dodge City tourism, officially completed its expansion project which began in 2018 on Thursday, when a ribbon-cutting was held for the new opening of the facility.

Joining the ribbon-cutting were Gov. Laura Kelly and Lt. Gov. David Toland.

The project was a $6 million expansion project with STAR Bonds that added 12 interactive, state-of-the-art exhibits and its new building will feature a temporary exhibit gallery, lobby and gift shop.

The new building will boast a 3,000-square-foot temporary exhibit hall that will showcase traveling exhibits and also be used for educational presentations, temporary classrooms, hands-on workshops, and special events.

Gov. Laura Kelly was joined by Lt. Governor David Toland, Dodge City Mayor Rick Sowers, Dodge City Commissioners Kent Smoll and Blanca Soto, Miss Kitty, city manager Nick Hernandez, museum chair Kerri Baker and Bob North for the opening of the Boot Hill Museum expansion project completion.

“This is a milestone day for the staff and board of directors of Boot Hill Museum," museum executive director Lara Brehm said. "We are extremely grateful for the support of many partners who have made this project possible. We are expecting a grand summer as we share the stories of Dodge City with people from all over the world.”

During the dedication ceremony, Kelly was also sworn in as an Honorary Marshal of Boot Hill Museum.

According to the museum, the honor is given to prominent visitors to the museum with past honorees including John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Johnny Cash, and the cast of "Gunsmoke."

“Congratulations to the Boot Hill Museum and Dodge City community on the completion of this significant expansion,” said Kelly. “By investing in the Dodge City community and attracting future visitors to our state, this project is a perfect example of the economic and cultural role the tourism industry plays across Kansas.

"As we continue to recover from the pandemic, we will find ways to partner with communities to support new tourism, spur business activities and safeguard our state’s unique history.”

The expansion will also allow an increase in education opportunities and provide accessibility, more space for additional exhibits, and engage everyone that visits while still remaining true to the Boot Hill mission. 

There will be nine new interpretive spaces to engage and inform visitors with interactive stories and displays that will also include bilingual signage and technology.

Area schools will be given an opportunity for new learning experiences and accessibility for adaptive equipment to enter the museum and opportunities to highlight temporary and traveling exhibits.

Important pieces of Dodge City’s story that should be shared with everyone that comes to Boot Hill Museum are the stories of the Plains Indians, buffalo hunters, cattle drovers and pioneers.

Boot Hill Museum is open 362 days per year and features 46 exhibits and a working Long Branch Saloon and Rath General Store.

Guests can watch the world-famous gunfights and Long Branch Variety Shows daily during the summer season.

“The museum you see behind me was once a vision, a dream that for years, was discussed, cussed, put on the shelf, removed from the shelf, but never forgotten," said museum board of directors chair Kerri Baker. "We acknowledge the support from our city leaders who helped us succeed by including Boot Hill Museum in the Star Bond Project.”

To contact the writer email vmarshall@gannett.com