Scott City Catbackers Remember Doornbos
Nearly 500 K-State supporters filled the lot ready to eat the event's famous "Calf Fries" and spend the evening talking about their favorite school - K-State.
"It's just awesome," said K-State football center B.J. Finney. "The people back there cooking and working and the fun time that it is; like Lon (Floyd) was saying, it's the most unique Catbacker event. I have so much fun with it because it really is blue collar, small town people, I mean they all are, but especially out here with these guys.
"They just want to talk to you, get to know you. It's laid back and it's a lot of fun."
While the event was celebrated just like it is every year, there was just something different this year. For the first time in 50 years, the event was missing its key component, Dr. Jerry Doornbos, who passed away on Jan. 7, 2014.
For half a century, Doornbos was the force behind the Catbackers Fry and was a long time supporter of both the Ahearn Fund and the Alumni Association.
"What I can tell you about Jerry is that he loved K-State. Last year, he celebrated his 50th year of being the head of this thing," explained assistant athletic director for development events Lon Floyd. "Tonight, there will be a guy missing that everybody loves. He was the driver of this event."
Last year, to celebrate his 50th year with the Fry, K-State Alumni Association president Amy Button Renz presented Doornbos with a watch and thanked him for all the work he did over the years to support K-State and its athletics department.
While he may not have been there in person last night, Doornbos was certainly there in spirit.
"He was the backbone for the last 50 years," said Preston Dunagan, friend of Doornbos' and 45-year Scott City Catbackers cook and volunteer. "I was planning on retiring this year, but I'm out here right now for Jerry."
Doornbos' passion for K-State ran deeper than most. He graduated in 1960 with a bachelors in science followed by a doctorate of veterinary medicine in 1962. He was so passionate about K-State his obituary stated, "Jerry had the greatest love for his alma mater, Kansas State," before it continued on about his involvement with his university.
"It's a lot of work, but my dad, this was his thing," explained Doornbos' son, Stewart who played a key role in keeping the event alive this year. "He loved it. He just bled purple, and he loved K-State. He was a veterinarian and, well, my sister and I just didn't have a choice, we had to go to school there. He simply loved the university."
Fittingly, among the cowboy boots and hats, before last night's program began Floyd opened the event with a toast to the Scott City Catbacker hero.
"I would like all of you to please stand, and if you have your drink available I ask you to raise it for this toast," began Floyd. "This toast is for a man who meant so much to this event, Kansas State University in general and to the entire Scott City community, this one's for you Jerry."
After the toast, K-State's women's volleyball coach Suzie Fritz, women's basketball coach Jeff Mittie and men's basketball coach Bruce Weber all interviewed with Voice of the Wildcats Wyatt Thompson about their upcoming seasons.
"It's great out here," laughed Weber. "It's always fun because this is one of the most lively ones, guys just have fun. This is the 51st year, and we've got great support out here. These people make long drives to our games, football and basketball, so if we can come out and reach out to them once a year it's a real positive thing for everybody."
Last night was Weber's third year visiting Scott City, but for Mittie, it was his first time out at the unique Catbacker Fry.
"It's great to be out here," the new Wildcat coach said with a smile as he shook hands with a fan. "It's unique, I will say that, but I'm enjoying it. It's the third night in a row for us out west, but it's been a lot of fun."
Mittie has spent the last three days out West and has visited Catbacker events in Dodge City, Garden City and Scott City. Along with a crew of K-State student athletes and staff, he will have the opportunity to meet fans in Colby, Kansas, tonight with the Colby Catbackers Club banquet at the Northside Golf Course Clubhouse beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Wyatt Thompson interviews K-State football's Scott City natives Luke Hays and Colborn Couchman, Andale's B.J. FInney, Abilene's Curry Sexton and Cody Whitehair and Dodge City's Laton Dowling at the 2014 Scott City Catbackers Fry on May 21, 2014