Tiffani Price will be acting like a saloon hussy Saturday. And her father couldn’t be prouder. In fact, he asked her to do it.
Price, head of the hospitality management program at Butler Community College, is the daughter of “Cactus Jack” Smith, a historical re-enactor from San Angelo, Texas, who’s performing at Old Cowtown Museum this weekend.
“I mean, I’ve sang and danced and performed my whole life, but I’ve never played a saloon hussy in my father’s production,” Price said.
Added her father: “She’s going to play Miss Lady Pearl. I’m proud of her.”
Smith, Price and other historical re-enactors will be appearing at Cowtown as part of the “Age of the Gunfighter.” Every half hour, one of six troupes will stage gunfights on the museum’s Main Street. In addition to Smith’s group and three from Kansas, troupes are coming from Oklahoma and Colorado.
The event also features carriage rides, refreshments, dancing by the Dixie Lee Saloon Girls and Entre Nous Victorian Dancers and appearances by dozens of historical re-enactors, all taking place in and around Cowtown’s 54 historic and reconstructed buildings. Activities for kids include target practice, a gun safety presentation and a magic show. At 3 p.m., the saloon girls will make a dash to the Arkansas River in what used to be known as their “unmentionables.”
Price said her hometown of San Angelo is “a cool little town that really embraces its history,” and her father and stepmother are a big part of that effort. Karen Smith portrays Madame Sunshine in Miss Hattie’s Bordello, which is housed in the last bordello in Texas to be closed by state authorities.
“They got married there,” Price said. “I sang the Lord’s prayer.”
Jack Smith returns the compliment to Wichita, saying it’s the realistic setting of Cowtown that draws him all the way from San Angelo. Well, that and the chance to visit his daughter. His troupe performs all over Texas and has traveled as far as Tombstone, Ariz.
“I have to tell you that Old Cowtown is probably one of the neatest places we got to re-enact because it’s actually a town,” he said. “Most of the places we do, there are a lot of false fronts” instead of real buildings.
Smith’s troupe, the Concho Cowboy Company, formed in 2006, but he said he’s been interested in the history of the Old West for most of his life.
“The Old West just fascinates me,” he said. “Our forefathers were a lot tougher breed than we are. They didn’t have air conditioning. It took forever to get anywhere. They didn’t have highways or cars.”
His group’s skits aren’t based on real people or events but draw from historical sources. They’ll perform two skits at Cowtown, one called “The Good Book,” based on a gunfighter-turned-preacher, and another called “The Bag,” about the perils of greed.
Price said that in her skit, the gunfight takes place after a character called Will Killum is released from jail. “He’s pulling me out of the saloon and taking me to do what saloon girls do,” she said.
But the actual cause of the shooting is the fact that Cactus Jack is the sheriff who put him in jail for 15 years. “In this case, the woman is not the cause,” she said.
Price said she expects her father to arrive in Wichita on Friday afternoon. “We’ll either practice at the hotel or else go out and do the blocking (of action) at Cowtown.”
Price moved here to major in voice at Butler in 1995, later finishing her degree at Friends and Baker universities. Today she runs Butler’s hospitality management program, located in Wichita.
Although Price is looking forward to performing with her father, she told him he might have to look for different roles soon.
“I told him he’s got to stop getting shot. I said you’re crazy, you’re 75 years old.”
‘Age of the Gunfighter’
Where: Old Cowtown Museum, 1865 W. Museum Blvd.
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday (Price and Smith are scheduled to perform at 10:30 a.m.)
Tickets: $7.75 for adults, $6.50 for seniors, $6 for youths 12-17, $5.50 for children 4-11, free for museum members and children 3 and under