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Hotel Congress celebrates centennial with Rialto, TSO, AZ Public Media

Hotel Congress celebrates centennial with Rialto, TSO, AZ Public Media

Hotel Congress will celebrate its 100th birthday later this month in a party that also celebrates three other Tucson institutions.

The Nov. 24 “Century of Tucson” celebration pays tribute to:

  • Hotel Congress, which opened in 1919 and whose history as a downtown hotel and concert venue includes the capture in January 1934 of notorious outlaw John Dillinger and his gang, who were guests at the hotel when a fire broke out forcing the gan to evacuate. Dillinger and his crew was captured days later still in Tucson.
  • Arizona Public Media, which launched when KUAT went on the air in 1967.
  • Rialto Theatre, which opened in 1920, one of Tucson’s first movie theaters.
  • And Tucson Symphony Orchestra, which is in its 91st season.

The TSO brass quintet will be part of the Nov. 24 event that runs from noon to 4 p.m. and includes a pop-up history museum presented by Hotel Congress and Arizona History Museum, guided historical tours of downtown, a sit-down with Hotel Congress owners Richard and Shana Oseran on the Congress plaza and a kid-centric roadshow and vendor fair in front of Hotel Congress’s sister business Maynards Market & Kitchen on North Toole Avenue.

Other events include mariachi performances, a jam session by Rich Hopkins and the Luminarios on Maynards back patio, Tucson’s largest birthday cake and the highly anticipated sealing of Hotel Congress’s time capsule.

Hotel Congress also will pass the 100-year torch to the Rialto, which launches its centennial with the return of El Cine Plaza, a one-day celebration of the time in the early 1970s when the Rialto was a Spanish-language movie house.

Spanish-language films were shown at the Rialto under the moniker El Cine Plaza from 1971 to 1973 — when it was briefly converted to an adult film house — and from 1978 until 1984, when the theater was closed permanently after a boiler explosion in the basement.

“It’s really the kickoff to our 100th anniversary celebration,” said Rialto GM Curtis McCrary. “I’m really excited and it’s a cool thing we’re coming together.”

The Nov. 24 El Cine Plaza features a performance by Sergio Mendoza and screenings of several shorts and full-length films including the 1950s musical “Al Son Del Mambo” starring Resortes, Amalia Aguilar and Perez Prado. Former Arizona Daily Star reporter/columnist Ernesto Portillo Jr., a KXCI personality, will host the free event.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch

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