Old Tucson Marks 75th Anniversary

October 04, 2013

An iconic Southern Arizona landmark is celebrating a big anniversary this year — and it’s opening for the season Friday. I’ll spare you a really dreadful John Wayne impression and just say Old Tucson turns 75 years old.

You’ve probably seen some of the movies or TV shows that’ve been filmed there, starting with the appropriately-named “Arizona,” shot in 1939, and including Gunfight at the OK Corral.

There was "Little House on the Prairie," and "Three Amigos."

There are still movies filmed at Old Tucson, but CEO and General Manager Pete Mangelsdorf says today, it focuses more on cultural and historic presentations.

Want to know what it was like to ride a stagecoach from Prescott to Tucson,  or experience life as a cowboy in the 1880s? He says Old Tucson’s your place.

Mangelsdorf said it’s been a tough transition, but points out it’s always been a tourist attraction.

"When movies were being made here, people could come out and watch them being made. And, over the years, we have done things like the saloon shows, the can-can shows, the stunt shows that are all cowboy in nature," he said.

Mangelsdorf said around 200,000 people come to Old Tucson every year, both locals and people from around the country.

Shelli Hall, Director of the Tucson Film Office, said it’s been a big part of Southern Arizona’s history. Even though the golden age of westerns has passed, it’s still a big deal.

"Films that are shot on location are like billboards for a city or state that are shown around the world," Hall said. "And Old Tucson is the perfect example of the connection between tourism and film."

Old Tucson will be adding a few more living history presentations this year,  including a movie set that looks like an Old West mercantile, and a mock trial to show visitors what the 1880s justice system looked like.

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