DODGE CITY, Kan. – Dr. R.C. Trotter has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. He’s tested hundreds of people over the past few months.
He has one thing to say to people interested escaping the “new normal” that has come to life since the virus took its hold on the world: “Ford County is safe; even with the spike in cases, we’ve had very little illness and very few fatalities.”
Trotter is also president of the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo, and he understands the skepticism that some may have about an event of such magnitude. Rest assured: He also knows the reasons why having the rodeo back in town is important.
“This just has to happen,” Trotter said of the rodeo, set for 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, July 29-Sunday, Aug. 2, at Roundup Arena; Dodge City Xtreme Bulls is set for 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, July 28. “We just have to bring this community together. The rodeo plays such an economic impact to this community. For the spirit of Dodge City and Ford County, it just had to be.
“So far, we’ve lost a couple of sponsors, but we’ve been able to replace them. We’ve sold all the premium seating. We’ve been selling tickets since before this thing ever happened. We’re hoping the local people will be hungry for this kind of entertainment. There won’t be as much to do as in the past regarding Dodge City Days, but there will still be a rodeo.”
The decision to move forward was based on many factors, and the safety of everyone involved was at the top of the list. With Trotter involved from the beginning of the pandemic, the volunteer committee had a solid foundation from which to begin the process.
“We started testing about any symptom at all,” Trotter said. “We actually got rid of the CDC guidelines, because that didn’t mean anything to our people. Right about the same time, the state got a bunch of supplies and sent them to Ford, Finney, Seward and Lyon counties, which have the beef packing plants.
“In Ford County, we were testing 180 people per thousand. No county in the state of Kansas is close to that. We tried to identify people through contact tracing. Since June 6, we’ve pretty much been in the single digits as far as new COVID cases.”
The local hospital, Western Plains Medical Complex, has yet to be overwhelmed, which is an indication about how quickly doctors and county officials reacted to the circumstances they faced.
“At this point, we’ve pretty much burned through our population of positive cases,” he said. “A lot of the testing we are doing now are people who want to have elective surgeries or are having other procedures done so they need to have the testing.
“We were the epicenter of the pandemic; we are no longer the epicenter. Our water park has opened with some restrictions. The racetrack is open.”
That bodes well for one of the biggest events in southwest Kansas every summer. Hundreds of cowboys and cowgirls converge on Dodge City to play the game they love. Not only is this a historic cowtown, but Dodge City has been recognized as one of the best events in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association; it’s a regular nominee for Large Outdoor Rodeo of the Year and has been inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.
“We’ve got to have some normalcy back in our lives,” Trotter said, noting that sanitation stations will be set up around the complex, and the committee will encourage the wearing of masks. “I think we’re in a good position to have a rodeo. We’ve worked together as a community to follow through, and I think that shows. Not only did we have the county testing for COVID, but we had the various clinics testing. We all worked together.”