Several Old West re-enactment groups filled with all sorts of cowboys, outlaws, lawmen, saloon girls and other disreputable characters are headed to Yuma for an old-fashioned showdown at the 16th Annual Gathering of the Gunfighters.

Held at the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, the two-day event, which draws thousands of people from all over the southwest, is scheduled to take place on Jan. 11 and 12 and runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days. Admission is $8 for those 14 and older, $3 for kids age 7-13, and free for ages 6 and younger.

Tickets include the re-enactment competition and full access to the prison and its exhibits, along with vendors of vittles, libations and Western wares and wear. Tickets are only available at the gate the days of the event. 

“We are very excited and so pleased that we continue to be chosen as the location for the event. We have such historic grounds here that really lends itself well to being the perfect backdrop,” said A-J Mosqueda, assistant manager for the Yuma Territorial Prison. “And it really introduces a lot of folks, whether they are local community members or tourists who follow the circuit of re-enactors, to a really beautiful property they may not have known about. So it is really a win-win for everyone involved.”

Mosqueda said the fun for spectators is seeing Western lore unfold in live-action skits with lots of shoutin’ and shootin’ – and no doubt, some prolonged and dramatic “deaths.”

And while gun fights weren’t a regular occurrence at the Territorial Prison back in its day, she added the authentic setting overlooking the Colorado River, the still-active rail line and the Ocean-to-Ocean bridge just adds to the atmosphere.

“It is fun and it is entertaining. But I think for generations of people its kind of like that blast from the past,” Mosqueda said. “Even though we have all the modern of technology, there is still something to be said about the Old West and Yuma is a part of that history.”

Mosqueda said the competition consists of each group taking turns presenting 20-minute skits. There will be both team and individual categories with coveted prizes being handed out to the winners afterwards. While the skits may be light-hearted, she said the judging – which includes whether get-ups, gear and firearms match the 1876-1909 time period – won’t be.

“These teams live the life, per say. They truly are in character and they really care about what they are doing, specifically the clothing they wear,” Mosqueda said. “Their costumes are hand-crafted for the particular character they are replicating, down to the smallest detail. It is not something you would go get at a party rental store or a costume shop for. It all has to be historically accurate.”

 Mosqueda said the event is family friendly and encourages the entire family to come out and spend the day at the prison. She added the weather is generally pretty nice this time of year and that you can come to either or both days.

The 2014 Gathering of the Gunfighters is sponsored by the Heritage Area with the cooperation of Arizona State Parks, the City of Yuma, and the Reenactment Guild of America.

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