Dillinger Days weekend has arrived. For two days, Hotel Congress transports itself back in time to mark the Tucson Fire Department and Tucson Police Department’s capture of John Dillinger, a gangster and thief in the 1930s.
All of the events are centered around the time period of Dillinger’s capture in Tucson, starting Friday, Jan. 20, with the Dillinger Speakeasy, a 1930s-style experience complete with whiskey tasting and live music. Saturday, Jan. 21, the schedule is packed with historic walking tours and re-enactments of the capture of Dillinger.
The history of Hotel Congress, which has hosted the event for 28 years now, intersects with that of Dillinger. The notorious figure and his gang were caught in Tucson after staying at Hotel Congress under aliases.
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On the night of Jan. 22, 1934, a fire broke out in the hotel’s basement and spread to the third floor, where Dillinger was staying. Dillinger and his gang requested that the firefighters who came to the hotel retrieve their luggage, and the firefighters did so.
The firefighters later recognized Dillinger and his gang in True Detective Magazine, resulting in the capture of the men later at a house on North Second Avenue. Now, 83 years later, Hotel Congress still celebrates Tucson’s role in Dillinger’s arrest.
"It represents a part of our history and culture around the Tucson Police Department and Tucson Fire Department and the fact that they actually captured John Dillinger, which was tried in vain by the FBI and federal government for quite a few years," said Todd Hanley, general manager of Hotel Congress.
Hanley said the event is about celebrating the Tucson fire and police departments.
Part of that celebration includes giving a portion of the Dillinger Days’ proceeds to the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation, a foundation that promotes the health and wellness of firefighters.
The foundation and Hotel Congress have been working together for five years, said Mike McKendrick, chairman for Greater Tucson Fire Foundation.
During the Dillinger Days events, the Fire Foundation’s restored 1923 American LaFrance fire truck, which was at the 1934 Hotel Congress fire, will be on display, McKendrick said.
As much as the event celebrates history, it also embraces the technology of the future. While the re-enactments of Dillinger’s capture don’t change much from year to year, this year, the way people watch them might be different. Hanley said the re-enactments will stream live on Hotel Congress’s website this weekend, so people who are not at the event can still experience the shows.
Friday, Jan. 20, 7-10 p.m. .: Dillinger Speakeasy at Hotel Congress
With live music, a photo booth and a pop-up 1930s memorabilia museum, this event offers plenty of nods to Dillinger’s era. To celebrate its 100th anniversary, Hotel Congress is also debuting its private whiskey label with Whiskey Del Bac, Del Bac 1919. The event is limited to those 21 and older, and tickets cost $30 each. Space is limited; only 200 people can attend the event.
Saturday, Jan. 21, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Dillinger Days celebrations
From morning to late afternoon, Hotel Congress is offering a packed schedule of family-friendly activities. The day starts off with carnival games and arts and crafts activities, concluding with the opening of local artist Danny Martin’s Dillinger Days Art in the lobby. Throughout the day, there will be three Dillinger re-enactments, two historic walking tours, a variety of talks and live music. The events are free, but front-row seats for the Dillinger re-enactments cost $30 each and include a non-alcoholic drink, a brunch entrée and a 2017 Dillinger Days gift.
Friday, Jan. 20-Sunday, Jan. 22: "Public Enemies" screening
The Screening Room will be showing 2009’s "Public Enemies" at 4 p.m. on Friday; 11 a.m., 2 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday; and 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is 25 cents each.
To learn more about where to join in on the Dillinger Days events, check out hotelcongress.com/events/january .