When the Kansas Shrine Bowl announced in early May it wouldn’t be able to hold its annual All-Star football game at Washburn this year because the campus was closed to events, the hopes were a new location could be found to still hold the game.
Turns out, officials didn’t have to look far.
The 47th annual Kansas Shrine Bowl will still be held in Topeka this year, with executive director B.J. Harris announcing Friday that Hummer Sports Park will serve as the site. The game will be played at 7 p.m. July 18.
"While health and safety concerns are still a factor, we are excited to have a new venue and are increasingly hopeful we will be playing football on July 18," Harris said in a news release. "Hummer Sports Complex is an amazing facility and their staff and support will be a tremendous asset."
Harris said all the activities for the game are being coordinated with assistance from the Shawnee County COVID-19 Task Force and that the situation is still somewhat fluid.
"The health of our players, participants and fans is the top priority and we look forward to working with local officials to execute a safe event," Harris said.
Even after the announcement came that Washburn wouldn’t be able to host the game, Visit Topeka Inc. vice president Jessica Schenkel said doing everything possible to keep the game in Topeka was a priority. Friday’s announcement therefore was a huge win.
"Topeka, like many communities, has been hit hard with lost business due to COVID-19; however, this makes the positives shine that much brighter," Schenkel said. "We are fortunate for our partnerships with local leaders and our relationship with Hummer Sports Park to be able to keep the Shrine Bowl in Topeka as originally planned.
"While there will be adjustments made to play a safe game, we are confident that the 47th annual game will be a successful event and we are looking forward to utilizing a tremendous asset to our community at the same time."
While the game itself is scheduled to be played, many of the activities that accompany it have been altered or canceled. The biggest of those is the cancellation of the Kansas Masonic All-State Marching Band, which has performed for 37 years in conjunction with the football game.
"After discussions with multiple high school and collegiate band directors, it became evident that a successful band camp would not be possible with the expected limitations," Harris said. "We are disappointed for our band kids, but we’re hopeful we can keep them engaged with our event and execute an alternative that could keep the band present at this year’s game."
Plans are in the works for a "Virtual Band" to perform in conjunction with the game under the leadership of William Woodsworth, director of athletic bands at Emporia State University, and A.J. Pence, band director at Valley Falls High School.
"It is important to allow these fine students to share their talents and their passion, especially given these trying times," Woodsworth said in the release. "Ultimately, although it will never be able to replace an in-person performance, our purpose will still hold true. This summer’s performance of the 2020 Kansas Masonic All-State Virtual Band will still be ‘For the Kids.’ "
Other events on Shrine Bowl weekend being canceled are the participant appreciation banquet, the Strong Legs Run 5K and the hospital screening clinic. The All-Star Cheer Camp will be shortened to a two-day, commuter camp at a to-be-named Topeka school district facility.
No determination has been made yet on the status of the Shrine Bowl Parade, high school football combine and Jr. All-Star Challenge. The four-man golf scramble is still scheduled for July 17 at Topeka Country Club.
The training camps for the East and West teams will be held in Ottawa and Salina, respectively.
"We remain fully aware that additional changes and disruptions could occur as we continue to plan for our event and we encourage our fans and supporters to remain engaged and flexible," Harris said. "Our fundraiser will only move forward with the support and guidance of local authorities; we trust their leadership and hope to execute a quality event on July 18."