Restored fire engine on hand for Dillinger Days celebration

2013-01-18T00:00:00Z Restored fire engine on hand for Dillinger Days celebrationDarren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 18, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Fire-engine enthusiasts and local history buffs have another reason to head downtown this weekend for the annual Dillinger Days at Hotel Congress.

A centerpiece of this year's event will be one of the original fire engines that responded to the 1934 fire at Hotel Congress that eventually led to the serendipitous arrest of America's first Public Enemy No. 1.

The engine, a 1923 American LaFrance fire engine, was decommissioned by the Tucson Fire Department in 1949.

Over the next half century, it bounced around the Southwest. It was used by a volunteer fire company in El Paso, at a fraternity house, and it even spent a little time in Mexico before being purchased by the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation in 2010, according to Lee Sebring, a member of AFL-Fox Restoration Team.

Sebring said the truck had been sitting out in the elements for years when the foundation bought it from an El Paso collector.

Since then, a group of 12 men has been meeting almost weekly at the city's Tom Price Service Center to work on restoring the 90-year-old vehicle to its original condition, Sebring said.

"The city of Tucson has been so nice for letting us use the garage," Sebring said.

Sebring estimates it has cost about $8,500 so far for the restoration. He expects it to be fully restored by the end of the year.

This is the second restoration for the group.

The first was of a 1928 Ahrens Fox fire engine, which took around three years to restore and now sits on permanent display at the department's Central Fire Station on West Cushing Street, across the street from the Tucson Convention Center.

The group's newest prize will be displayed downtown throughout the Dillinger Days event, beginning at 7 p.m. today and starting at 10 a.m. Saturday.

On StarNet: See more photos at azstarnet.com/gallery

If You go

Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St., commemorates the 79th anniversary of John Dillinger's capture tonight and Saturday with the annual celebration of Dillinger Days.

Dillinger Speakeasy

7 p.m. today: The night starts with a quick-draw show with "John Dillinger" and includes tastings of premium whiskeys, brews by Borderlands Brewery, and music by Kings of Pleasure and Duo Vibrato. The $20 cost includes a chili bar from Cup Café.

Dillinger Speakeasy afterparty

10 p.m. today: Depression-era tunes with Catherine Byrnes as a '30s-style chanteuse, gypsy music with Chris Black, and Appalachian party songs with Jimmy Carr and the Awkward Moments on vintage instruments.

Dillinger Days

10 a.m. to 4:30 Saturday: Family-friendly activities include re-enactments of Dillinger's capture, vintage car shows, a carnival, live music, tours of the Hotel Congress, downtown walking tours and more.

Brothers Macabre Dillinger Magic Show

5 and 8 p.m., Saturday: Nate Anderson and Kenny Stewart perform magic, mind reading and fortunetelling - infused with comedy. The cost is $10 for this 21-and-over show.

Proceeds benefit the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation's efforts to restore the 1923 American LaFrance Fire Engine, above, that responded to the Hotel Congress fire on Jan. 23, 1934.

• For more information, call 622-8848 or go online to hotelcongress.com

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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