Originally Published: July 28, 2007 9:51 p.m.
PRESCOTT - Those who struggle to recreate in their minds the Southwest's rich history of the American cowboy needed to spare only a few hours walking around Whiskey Row Saturday.
For the second straight year the Prescott Regulators and Their Shady Ladies, an award-winning Old West re-enactment group, sponsored the "Shootout on Whiskey Row."
The event brings together other famous re-enactment groups from Arizona and California to perform historic skits and gunfights in a competition along the famed strip.
Clad in cowboy attire and self-contained within a roped-off section on Montezuma Street between Goodwin and Gurley streets Saturday, participants shared their stories with a small audience and fired fake rounds from their pistols for added effect during the rousing skits.
Meanwhile, the Shady Ladies sponsored an 1800s-period attire costume contest and a raffle with proceeds to benefit Yavapai Big Brothers/Big Sisters. In addition, many of the event's vendors, of which there were 12, sold Old West-themed clothing and similar articles.
As part of this year's event, Mayor Rowle Simmons officially proclaimed the fourth Saturday in July as "The National Day of the Cowboy" here in recognition of Prescott's cowboy heritage.
Although it's not a national holiday, Ranz and others in the cowboy re-enactment community are laboring toward that end.
"To help honor and recognize that, we decided to start this (the shootout) on this day to help bring back Prescott's Western history," said George Ranz, president of Prescott Regulators and Their Shady Ladies. Ranz said it's important to celebrate the history of cowboys because of their far-reaching ranching efforts, specifically supplying quality beef across America; as well as the glamour and romanticism associated with their lifestyle.
Barbara Boyer, one of the "Shady Ladies," said the shootout gives people a taste of 1880s Prescott in a familiar spot downtown. This year the event doubled its number of competitive re-enactment groups from four to eight, making it more attractive for spectators.
"People come here and they see that it's well produced and it's received by the community, and they'll tell other groups that they see at other events. And then more people will want to come," said local Lindsey Mills, who's also affiliated with the Shady Ladies.
Most of the shootout's skits recreate real pieces of cowboy history, but some of them feature a comedic element, too.
But it's the fake gunfights and emotion-filled acting that typically draw much of the audience's attention. In the late 1800s, Whiskey Row was no stranger to violence.
"In any of these towns in Arizona, you had gunfights back in those days," Ranz said. "When people had differences, they settled them with guns, which is part of our history."
John Boyer, vice president of the Regulators, said the 42-member group decided to start an annual shootout because they grew tired of trekking all over Arizona to take part in these types of events. The Regulators have traveled as far as Yuma and Tombstone.
"We decided, 'Why don't we bring some of that to our hometown?'" he said.
Despite the rigorous travel, the Regulators enjoy the shootout because it's for a good cause.
Prescott Regulators and Their Shady Ladies, a non-profit organization, donated the net proceeds and donations from the event to Yavapai Big Brothers/Big Sisters. The charitable group pairs at-risk children with responsible adult mentors.
Last year, Ranz said, the shootout helped Yavapai Big Brothers/Big Sisters register 12 Big Brothers in one weekend.
The shootout continues today from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Whiskey Row. For more information about the Prescott Regulators and Their Shady Ladies, call Ranz at 771-2161 or log on to the Internet at www.prescottregulators.org.
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