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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Dastardly deeds at Dillinger Days


    Courtesy of Hotel Congress

    Jonathan Mincks as John Dillinger tries to make his escape during Hotel Congress’s 2014 installment of the annual Dillinger Days event in downtown Tucson. The events this Friday and Saturday celebrate the historic capture of Dillinger, who was named Public Enemy No. 1 in the 1930s.

    When the urge arises to dress in the styles of the ’30s and you’re in a gangster mood, stop by downtown Tucson to satisfy your fix with the annual return of John Dillinger.

    Many who are familiar with history or are mafia buffs may know of Dillinger, called Public Enemy No. 1 for the uproar caused by his thievery and gun-toting trouble. According to the FBI’s website, between 1933 and 1934, Dillinger’s gang killed 10 men while injuring seven others, in addition to organizing jail breaks and bank robberies. Eventually, the group made its way to Tucson where, on Jan. 23, 1934, a fire spread in Dillinger’s accomplice’s room, leading to Dillinger’s apprehension.

    “We’ve been doing an event for [Dillinger’s capture] about 20 years,” said Michelle Armstrong, marketing manager of Hotel Congress. “But … it’s really taken off and become a huge spectacle in the [last] seven or eight years.”

    This is the 81st anniversary commemorating Dillinger’s capture. On Friday night, there will be a speakeasy, Armstrong said, where there will be whiskey, a gun show, vintage cars and music. Here, for two days every year, Hotel Congress hosts the event for Dillinger’s apprehension by Tucson policemen and firemen.

    Tickets for the speakeasy will be available at 7 p.m. on Friday for $25, where proceeds will aid the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation. On Saturday, the event will be free and family-friendly, going on all day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    “You have people here who are Dillinger fans or 1930s buffs,” Armstrong said. “People come from all over Tucson, but also Phoenix, just to support [the event].”

    Armstrong added that the event easily garners over 6,000 people who attend in downtown Tucson.

    Among the schedule of events for Saturday are live reenactments of Dillinger’s capture at three different times during the day, in addition to historic walking tours that may be guided or self-guided.

    But the attraction the anniversary draws is not only good for history enthusiasts but also for local businesses located near the event. According to the Hotel Congress website, Derrick Widmark, the owner of Diablo Burger and Good Oak Bar, believes that the success derived from the two-day event is great business for the downtown area.

    On the site, Widmark remarked that Hotel Congress “[gives] folks the chance to explore all of the changes and new venues downtown.”

    “A lot of people dress up, especially for the Friday night speakeasy, because it sold more beer that way,” Armstrong said. “But really, people do [that] stuff and they hang out by the cars and the car owners and people have [photos] taken with them.”
    Armstrong added that the event will be fun and a great opportunity for those dressed in 1930s regalia to roam around the event.


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