Caldwell Chisholm Trail Fest to be held May 5-7

by Tracy McCue, Sumner Newscow — Caldwell is having fun playing host to one of the 2017 Chisholm Trail celebrations commemorating the 150th anniversary of the trail. The annual Chisholm Festival will be held May 5-7 in Caldwell.

Though born on the trail in 1871, it wasn’t until 1879 when the Santa Fe Railroad expanded its line to Caldwell that she boomed into a true cattle town, loading up and heading east with shipments of beef. This border town took on all the elements of a lawless frontier settlement with saloons, gambling dens, brothels; the first town north of Indian Territory provided a place where the cowboys could go wild after months on the dusty and treacherous trail. Gunfights, showdowns, general hell raising and hangings soon became commonplace.

Over a million cattle hit Caldwell’s borders as Caldwell experienced a higher murder rate and lost more law enforcement officers than other more famous cowtowns.

     Reconnecting with their history as one of the six original cow towns in Kansas, the annual Chisholm Trail Festival will take you back to an 1880’s Old West vibe. Get into the spirit and “Dress West for the Fest” by dressing in 1880’s era western wear or grab your hat and boots and come on down! Don’t let dress code deter you, if you don’t own an hat, Caldwell officials will sell you one.

     •Friday’s Pub Crawl is always a good time. Grab friends (teams of four), dress the part, and play your way through the fun games. Added bonus: a downtown Ghost Tour will take place after dark, highlighting local characters, marshals, and citizens who lived, died, or worked in Caldwell’s heyday as a cattle town. Tours begin at the Heritage Park, the hub for most of our events.

     •Saturday May 6, First Street, from Main to Chisholm, will turn into our Chisholm Trail Event Arena complete with Chisholm Trail Alley with a Stagecoach Station. Catch your pancakes and eat them, too from 8-10 a.m. with a fun, Chris Cakes event.

•At 9 a.m., grab some kolache awesomeness at the Kolache Kitchen and hit the Arts & Craft bazaar for first dibs on the good stuff.

•From 10 a.m.- 6 p.m., the event arena will have stagecoach rides, pony rides, mechanical bull, calf roping machine, blacksmith, bow & arrow obstacle race, Old West picture prop booth, longhorns for viewing, Czech beer garden with horseshoes, Cow Chip Throw and more! Come to the big TeePee Chamber booth for buttons, tickets, t-shirts, maps, event schedules, and more! There will be entertainment on the stages plus button drawing prizes all day long. Custom made Chisholm Trail mugs, beer steins, and utensil/candle holders by Isaac Shue Pottery AND Eshelman’s Old Time Ice Cream will be on sale.

     Along with tasty fare from our local restaurants: The Shack, Red Barn Café, Last Chance Bar & Grill, and One Stop, the Food Truck Pavilion will host four food trucks to add to people’s dining convenience. Local truck “Jackpot” will fry up some calf fries to commemorate the cattle of the trail! Two more local trucks, “Emily’s Come & Get It” and “Czech Chapter Klobase Trailer” will be joined by Wellington’s “Billy Soles Travelin’ Smoke BBQ.” Along with all the great food, top it all off with homemade ice cream by Eshelman’s Old Time Ice Cream machine. You will NOT go hungry!

     •Caldwell is honored to host the traveling museum “Chisholm Trail Sesquicentennial: Driving the American West” exhibit in the beautiful Opera House, coinciding perfectly with the festival. Coordinated by Symphony in the Flint Hills, built by Flint Hills Design, and major funding by Lost Trail Soda, be sure to attend this must-see event May 5 to June 27!  This is a special additional exhibit depicting trail history from a bank perspective.

The Stock Exchange Bank is Sumner County’s oldest continually operating bank and will display some of their personal items from the era. Throughout the day, Wild Women of the West will tell their tales on street corners, Chisholm Stage, and the Upstairs Roost. The Roost has been expanded for this year’s grand opening with Dr Noble’s office, the Chisholm Trail Cattlemen’s Room, and parlor adjoined with original pocket doors. This is located above the museum – come check it out! The view of Main Street from up there is amazing!

     •A 6-Shooter 5K Relay will be a six-member team obstacle race through town. Pre-register teams online to get your t-shirts.  The starting gun will fire at 10 a.m. near Heritage Park. This is a new, fun event for all ages.

•A Western Art Show from 9 to 5 p.m. will be at the Border Queen Museum with a book signing by Texas State Historian and Old West renown author, Bill O’Neal. The Caldwell Historical Society has republished O’Neal’s “Border Queen Caldwell: The Toughest Town on the Chisholm Trail” for sale and signing at 2 p.m. Bill is a very entertaining speaker and will talk at 11 a.m. on Proclamation Stage (near the Last Chance Bar & Grill). You won’t want to miss this!

     •At High Noon, right in the middle of it all, Caldwell is honored to host the Kansas-Oklahoma Proclamation Exchange (Texas will also be represented). The relay of horseback riders will carry the proclamation signed by our governor from Abilene to Caldwell, to arrive in our Border Queen city for a big celebration. The Kansas riders will hand off to the Oklahoma riders and vice versa with much pomp and circumstance. Many visitors are planning to attend this ceremony along with invited dignitaries from both states. “The Gangs of Wild West Caldwell” show, complete with the reinvention of the Caldwell Talbot Gang Shootout, Can Can dancing by both the Border Queen Bellas and Delano District’s Delano Dollies, and dozens of spirited actors including area news personalities, will perform on the street near the Chisholm Trail Event Arena immediately following the proclamation handoff.

      •An exciting new event of 25 Kansas-based distilleries, wineries, and breweries will gather at our “Spirits of the Trail Tasting Parlour” from 1 to 5 p.m. at First and Chisholm — in the old John Deere shop). Tickets are at the door which will allow tastings of your choice.

•A Beard & Mustache Contest will premier on Chisholm Stage at 4 p.m. between two of our Kansas Humanities speakers: Isaias McCarffery on “Foam on the Range (beer making on the Kansas prairie)” will speak near the Czech Chapter Beer Garden (so fitting), and Jane Rhoads on “Opera House Culture on the Kansas Frontier” (Caldwell had two opera houses in her day). The stage is set right in the middle of all the action and will have revolving entertainment throughout the day.

     •The stage will be set for an evening Chuck Wagon dinner at 6 p.m. (tickets available online). The cooks are a mother-son-daughter team from Pond Creek who have cooked for our festival many years. They’re excited to join in the fun and will be cooking up the biggest pot you’ve ever seen full of Tex-Mex Cowboy Soup and cornbread. Tickets are $10 and serves as a fundraiser for a September Okla-Kansas Chisholm Trail 150 Cattle Drive event.

     •Saturday night will feature the Old West Backroom Poker Tournament in Joe B’s Saloon at 7 p.m. entertainment and street dance by the Brady Moddelmog Band at 9 p.m., and dancing the night away under the stars till midnight.

•Sunday May 7, we’ll come together for Emily’s Come & Get It biscuits and gravy at 9 a.m., Cowboy Church at the Community Building at 10 a.m., quilt show at the Methodist Church at 11 a.m., and self-guided tours of barn quilts and a Trail Rust & Country School Museums from 1-5 p.m. NOW is the time to get your old time photos taken at the Shooting Gallery; family photo, businesses, groups, or individuals should commemorate 2017 with a photo!


     Guaranteed small town fun at its finest! For more information, visit or or email [email protected].

For all Chisholm Trail 150 events in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, visit

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