Dust Bowl is a go — for now

This article by Jim PIckens was originally published in the Messenger-Inquirer on May 17, 2020.

The 47th annual Dust Bowl is a go — for now.

The iconic nine-night event, set for July 17-25 at Kendall-Perkins Park, has been a summer staple in Owensboro for nearly a half century, and Byron Owen is hoping to keep it that way in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At this point we are proceeding as normal,” said Owen, the Dust Bowl president and tournament director. “If we’re able to have it, of course, we’ll be following all the health and safety guidelines in place at the time of the event.

“It could be a situation where we have restrictions, we might have to have it indoors with no fans, but we certainly want to have it if at all possible.

“We’ll look at all the recommendations regarding social-distancing, screenings, masks and the like.”

One thing Owen said the Dust Bowl won’t be is postponed.

“When we submitted our application for the event to the City of Owensboro, we made it clear that there will not be a postponement,” Owen said. “We’re either going to be able to hold the event on the tournament date that is set, or it will be canceled.”

Owen noted that by mid-July the citizenry will be looking forward to attending a live local event, following the cancellation of KHSAA spring sports, American Legion baseball, Ohio Valley League summer collegiate league baseball, the Daviess County Lions Club Fair, the International Bar-B-Q Festival and Friday After 5.

“We’ll just have to wait and see, but it could work to our advantage in this respect,” Owen said. “People are going to be itching to attend a sporting event by this point in the summer. It’s people who have made the Dust Bowl a success through all the years, and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to host it once again.

“Last year, we were able to purchase two new scoreboards, and I’m very appreciative of the help we’ve received from sponsors and from the people of Owensboro — through the years, this has turned into a true community event.”

COVID-19 already has impacted this year’s event, but Owen is hopeful things will get better with the passage of time.

“The pandemic has affected our fundraising efforts, but as people go back to work we’re hoping this will pick up for us,” Owen said. “None of us have ever faced a situation like this, and it’s taking some time for all of us to get used to it.

“Our entry deadline remains July 1, so the registrations for our teams will start rolling in around late June.”

In the meantime, Owen and other Dust Bowl officials will be preparing for a tournament that has been played in Owensboro on a yearly basis since 1974.

“I don’t feel we need to make a decision on the matter until the first of July,” Owen said. “At that point, we’re going to do whatever is best in terms of safety for players, coaches, volunteers, officials and fans.”