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Guns will sling during western re-enactment weekend
There is a bunch of gun-slinging bad guys heading to Yuma this weekend, but don't call the police. Gather up the family. The bullets won't be real, but the good times certainly will be during Gathering of the Gunfighters.
More than a dozen Wild West re-enactment groups from as far away as Colorado and Oklahoma will converge Saturday and Sunday upon a spot that's seen its share of real-life bandits: the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park.
“What better place to have a Gathering of the Gunfighters than at the notorious lockup that struck fear in their hearts?” said Charles Flynn, executive director of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, which operates the park. “There's a reason Ben Wade didn't want to get on board the ‘3:10 to Yuma.'”
The 15th Annual Gathering of the Gunfighters promises to give spectators an entertaining return to the days of outlaws, lawmen, saloon gals and colorful cast of assorted varmints, scoundrels and general ne'er-do-wells. But organizers say the skits and competitions that weekend won't just be lighthearted fun, but a little serious education as well.
“The Gathering of the Gunfighters is a lot of fun, but it's also based in real history, which is why we're so glad the prison can host this event,” Flynn said.
Re-enactors take their authenticity quite seriously, he said. Simply forgetting to remove a modern piece of jewelry or new coins from one's pocket prior to a competition can be deemed a major breakdown in accuracy.
In addition to the performances, the event will feature vendors selling western-themed getups and grub.
Hours will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days, with groups taking turns presenting 20-minute skits.
Don Swain with the Deguello Gunslingers says the re-enactments delight people of all ages — for different reasons.
“I think it draws so many people because it takes those of us old enough to remember the westerns we grew up with back to a simple time, a time that wasn't so fast. For those in the new generation that don't remember the westerns, it's something new and exciting. For the re-enactors, it gives us a chance to teach history by doing what we love and it's a great chance to teach firearm safety.”
Admission will be $7 for ages 14 and older and $3 for ages 7-13. Admission will include full access to the prison, which Flynn stressed has likely changed quite a bit since many a local person's last visit.
“Even if you've visited the prison in the past, you'll be impressed with all the new exhibits,” Flynn said. “Events like this are important to bring new visitors to this historic site and are a key part of making the park operationally self-sustaining.”
The Heritage Area has renovated the museum exhibits and restored the prison's original adobe sally port with historically accurate materials. New offerings include a digital exhibit about Mormon polygamists who were held in the Yuma prison.
Flynn said he expects the prison to play host to big crowds Saturday and Sunday during Gathering of the Gunfighters.
“This is a great Yuma tradition that needs to be supported and sustained, just like the prison itself. I would particularly like to thank the local Deguello Gunslingers group, because their dedication has been invaluable in making the Gathering of the Gunfighters an ongoing success.”
Darin Fenger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6860.