The Dodge City Centennial pageant

Kathie Bell
Special to the Globe
Scaffolding being setup for the the Dodge City Centennial pageant. SUBMITTED PHOTO

It was a six night extravaganza with almost 500 people portraying Dodge City's wild west past. Nearly 3,000 spectators watched from the stands every night. But this pageant was produced and directed by a company in Ohio.

It was the Dodge City Centennial pageant, "Dodge City-Symbol of the West" which wowed people in the area from Aug. 15-20, 1972. Local Edna Garrett came up with the name.

But the committee which oversaw the Centennial decided to go out of state for expertise in staging the pageant, as well as for providing advice and promotional materials for the Centennial in general.

The John B. Rogers Company of Fostoria, Ohio, which specialized in staging "historical spectacles," put on the pageant using two large movie screens, a 260 foot stage, lighting effects, covered wagons, old cars and a dozen horses filling Dodge City's Memorial Stadium football field.

The hundreds of performers, however, were all volunteers from the Dodge City area. Dodge Citians, Frank B. Toalson and Bob Swaim recruited the local talent and held auditions for people of all ages. Joseph C. Simmons, business manager of the Rogers Company, was the genius behind the writing, casting, promotion, publicity and ticket sales. One of the Company's directors, Don Dalton, pulled together all the varied elements.

To generate ticket sales, an important element of the pageant was the Dodge City Centennial Queen contest, with the crown and prizes going to the woman who sold the most advance ticket coupons for the pageant.

The winner was Queen Delores Scheve and her princesses were Beverly Larson, Leslie Turley, Claudette Beverwijk, Jane Curtis, Debra Wetzel, Norma Bradfield, Lola Harper and Anna George. These contestants represented a wide span of ages.

Several days before the show, 30 to 40 men could be seen erecting the set with lumber, scaffolding and tools. There must have been a ban on photography as the only other pictures I could find were in newspapers of rehearsals - but none during the actual pageant.

Apparently, the show was a great success. During and after the pageant, people writing the Globe gave the show raving reviews. One exception to the praise was from an anonymous angry dentist, who didn't like a humorous scene which put dentists in a bad light.

The Rogers Company, which was founded by John B. Rogers in 1903, was well known for presenting performances commemorating Centennials and historic events.

And they were involved in other aspects of Dodge City Centennial. Apparently, they contracted with OHM, Inc., also of Fostoria, to provide buttons showing membership in various "Clubs."

These included "Brothers of the Brush" for a men's beard growing contest; "Smoothie Permit" exempting men from growing beards; "Little Smoothie" for boys too young to grow beards; "Centennial Belles" for ladies; and "Miss Centennial Belle" for girls.

OHM was incorporated in 1955 and is no longer in business. Little else is known about this company.

Searching social media reveals nearly identical buttons made for numerous towns during the 1950s, 60s and 70s, but there is nothing about the company itself.

In 1977, the Rogers Company moved its offices to Pennsylvania from where it continued to produce historical pageants into the 1980s.