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El Dorado Hosts ‘Showdown at Sunset’

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The Card Game
The Card Game
    The Confrontation
The Confrontation
The Showdown at Sunset
The Showdown at Sunset
May 22, 2008

Zoie Clift, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Showdown at Sunset has been a summer tradition in El Dorado since the 1980s. Each Saturday in June, July and August, the downtown area transforms into a historical platform and venue to witness a notorious shootout.

The event, named one of the “Top-100 Events in North America” this year by The American Bus Association, recreates the 1902 shootout that led to a bitter feud between the Tucker and Parnell families.

“It was wild times during the oil boom with the number of people coming to town to strike it rich and this event tells about those times,” said Mark Givens, director of Main Street El Dorado.

The small town, founded in 1843, remained isolated until the arrival of railroads allowed a prosperous lumber industry to evolve. In 1902, the Tucker-Parnell Feud erupted over a series of disputes between the city’s marshal, Guy Tucker, and local businessman Tom Parnell. A gunfight in the city’s streets left three men dead and Tucker (who is the great-grandfather of former Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker) and others injured. This gunfight is the basis of Showdown at Sunset.

A cast of 12 local actors recreates the events leading up to the gunfight. Before the re-enactment, the cast mingles with visitors to describe the history of the area and give insight into the people depicted. The aim is to achieve a sense of historical setting so that visitors will better understand the recreated confrontation between the two feuding parties.

“Our cast of actors wear true-to-the-era costumes and shoot real "black-powder" guns that sound, smell, and look like the real thing,” said Givens. “Kids are able to meet the actors, take pictures and get autographs before and after each performance. We also give away free trading cards each week featuring each of the characters and that is really popular with the kids too.”

El Dorado is best known as being the heart of the 1920s oil boom in South Arkansas, earning it the nickname “Arkansas’s Original Boomtown.” The town is located about 100 miles from Little Rock.

Showdown at Sunset is scheduled for 7 p.m. each Saturday in June, July and August at Courthouse Square in downtown. Live music is also scheduled to be on hand. More information can be found at


Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, 501-682-7606

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