Exploring the 'Spirit of the West' at Old Tucson

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Twenty-two years ago, a fire destroyed a sound stage and about half the movie sets at Old Tucson, a popular film location near Tucson. The place, however, is still open for business as a place to discover it's rich role in film history. It is also open as a place for youngsters to have a little fun.

Old Tucson was built in 1939, for the movie Arizona. Nowadays, during a hot summer day, Park Historian Jeff Scotland will show some summer camp kids how they used a chuckwagon in the Old West.

Old Tucson is best known as a movie location.

"Over 400 film, TV and commercial projects have been filmed out here," said Mary Davis, Director of Marketing, Sales and Communications.

Even to this very day, Old Tucson has a connection to the entertainment industry. As recently as last summer, there was a project that was filmed at Old Tucson.

"We did a big film premiere three weeks ago," said Davis.

Most people are surprised to learn that the movie Tombstone was shot here. Three Amigos was also shot here.

"We still have our connection with western film making," said Scotland. "To gain that sense of history, to make that connection between American Western culture and contemporary arts, I think that's very important."

A fire in 1995 destroyed about half the backlot. In addition, filmmakers just aren't making as many westerns as they used to in recent years. Still, Davis said some projects are shot at Old Tucson.

"We have a very vibrant independent film industry that is growing organically, and those are the folks who come out here and do some of their work," said Davis.

A foundation is set up to bring in summer campers who learn about the West, in addition to the cultures that came with it.

"We bring kids in, and we talk to them about the life of a cowboy," said Davis. "They learn about the Tohono O'otham culture. They learn about the Chinese culture and all the different cultures that help born this region in the 1800s and the 1700s."

Besides the learning, there's also the train ride, stunt shows, horse riding, rifle shooting... and a haunted mine.

"The entire town becomes a haunted town in the month of October," said Davis.

During this time of year, Old Tucson is only open on weekends. It will, however, open for four days on the Labor Day weekend.

On weekdays, the streets look more like a ghost town than a theme park. That, however, is okay for the summer campers, who have the park to themselves.

Tucked way away in the desert west of Tucson, Old Tucson is a picturesque western movie location, and a nice place for little cowpokes to have some fun.