Rawhide is gearing up for an entire weekend packed with original Western-style attractions to commemorate its 40th birthday this Saturday, Feb. 12 through Sunday, Feb. 13.
Live bull riding, a pie-eating contest and an abundance of Western reenactment groups will be unique to this weekend's celebration. Rawhide also plans on unveiling its new theater, Spirit of the West, especially for the occasion.
The usual festivities of gun shows, gold panning, burro rides, live music and more will be among the additions special to the weekend. All attractions during the birthday weekend celebration are free.
Barry Nelson, director of operations at Rawhide, described the weekend's events as "wall-to-wall entertainment wherever you go."
Ever since its 1971 grand opening in Scottsdale, Rawhide has maintained its authentic Western roots in the legend of Charles "Rawhide" Rawley. The tall tale illustrates a time when a group of settlers migrated west and established the town of Rawhide in the Gila River Valley.
Rawhide's devotion to this legend enhances the overall experience for visitors.
"You're really going to get the taste for Rawhide and the 1880s," Nelson said.
Nelson and General Manager Brian Crum have been collaborating in the entertainment business for 15 years and find that Rawhide is unlike any previous venture. They see a promising future for the attraction.
The 40th birthday is just one of the first events the duo plans on utilizing to expand Rawhide's popularity.
The Travel Channel has already begun filming a 13-week mini-series, "Road to Rawhide," at Rawhide's location on the Gila River Indian Community. Nelson said they are also using nine promotional radio stations to help Rawhide become broadly recognized.
"Within six weeks, everyone will know what Rawhide is," he said.
For some families living outside of Arizona, however, Rawhide's reputation has reached halfway across the nation.
Mark and Teri Reitz of Minnesota recently made a stop at Rawhide with their three daughters.
The affordability of Rawhide was not the only factor that appealed to them.
"Just the old town, the dirt floor, the guns and just the whole town," Mark Reitz said as he gazed up and down Main Street. "There's not too many left around."
Although this birthday weekend attractions will be free to guests, the regular prices at Rawhide are reasonable. Each attraction is $5 with the option of buying a day pass with access to all attractions for $15 per person.
More than anything, Nelson emphasized that, "It's all about the ambiance."
Rawhide's 40th birthday celebration will prove just that.
To obtain a coupon for free attractions, visit www.rawhide.com. Rawhide is located at 5700 W. North Loop Road, Chandler. For information, call (480) 502-5600.
Erin Sullivan is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a junior at Arizona State University.