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Women's Chamber

by Ted Harbin

DODGE CITY, Kan. – Since Dodge City Roundup Rodeo’s inception, a Kirby has been involved in some capacity.

Floyd Kirby was one of the organization’s founders, and his passion for rodeo has been handed down through the generations. It’s about giving of time and energy to produce something for the community. For Roundup, it’s about giving back to the region and to the sport, because it’s the biggest rodeo across Kansas and even the region that is also made up of Nebraska and Oklahoma.

That tradition continues to this year’s rodeo, set for 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, July 31-Sunday, Aug. 4, at Roundup Arena; Dodge City Xtreme Bulls is set for 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, July 30. Not only is Jim Kirby carrying on his father’s legacy, but Jim’s wife, Jennifer, and their children have also been heavily involved.

Jennifer Kirby is part of the Dodge City Women’s Chamber of Commerce, which was founded in 1959 to serve and support the area with college scholarships, community service grants and other awards. Their primary fundraiser comes from selling concessions at Roundup Arena.

“The original group was made up of wives of the men of the Chamber of Commerce,” said Kirby, a past president and former co-chair of the rodeo committee who serves as the concessions manager. “The chamber cannot give scholarships because it’s more business-oriented, where these ladies wanted to give to service organizations, people in need, food banks and scholarships. They formed their own group, and they’ve always done concessions at the rodeo, whatever the rodeo was.

“From that money, over half the budget goes to community service or scholarship – this year, we are giving 14 scholarships. We also have the memorial rose garden that honors people in the community and the surrounding areas that have passed. It’s at the Dodge City Community College campus, and we allocate funds each year to support that.”

It’s a big endeavor and an important one. The ladies take their jobs seriously, and Kirby is quite proud of the work they’ve done over the years. Her investment has paid off beyond what she does for the community; she has shared her love of volunteerism with four of her five daughters, Jesicka, Jamie, Jericka and Janae. All are members of the women’s chamber, and Jericka is a co-chair of the group’s rodeo committee with Kathleen Jones.

Jennifer Kirby takes pride in the little things that get done in Dodge City. She knows how important Roundup Rodeo is to not only the community but all of southwest Kansas. Nearly 1,000 contestants from across North America converge on Ford County every summer to be part the prestigious event – in 2012, Roundup was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.

“Our rodeo provides a chance for the fans to see all the top cowboys and cowgirls,” she said. “Farm families don’t travel a lot, because they are stewards of the land. It’s great that we are able to put on that kind of show for the people around here.”

Over the years, the women’s chamber has been a proven benefactor, giving not only scholarships but also funds to the Ronald McDonald House, Methodist Youthville, Arrowhead West and many other service groups. The ladies have had help from major companies in Dodge City, whether it’s Cargill, National Beef, Hiland Dairy or one of the many other sponsors that help cover the cost of food so the women’s chamber can donate as much money as possible each year.

“I think the rodeo is so important to Dodge City,” Kirby said. “The chamber and Dodge City Days is such a big deal around here. I don’t know if the celebration would be what it is without the rodeo. It’s so interconnected, and it’s such a boost to the economy. Without Roundup having a rodeo, the women’s chamber wouldn’t have an event to raise money. We provide a service to the community.

“Our sole purpose is to make money to give it all away.”

Women's Chamber
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