Wild West Showdowns on Main Street
By David Josselyn
Saturday, August 17th, the Wild Bunch Gang gave their final official performance for 2013 during the Central City Bacon Tour. Several locals dress up in Old West attire for short performances culminating in a gunfight, usually finding all but one of them dead, on Main Street in Central City. They never perform the same skit twice in a day and all skits contain drama and humor. The Wild Bunch Gang consists of Mike Keeler, Chuck Roberts, Gary Huffman, Bill Cavanagh, Ralph Barnhardt, and Anne Luedders. When asked for their favorite moment this year, Gary was quick to say, “Whenever Mike gets shot.” Mike on the other hand, responded, “When Gary is drunk,” referring to a specific skit of theirs where Gary plays the part of being inebriated. Chuck quickly added that the whole group is insured through the gunplay reenactments covering any incidental damages or injuries. Chuck also noted that it is, “Kinda’ fun when drunk people from the crowd insert themselves into the show.” Although this is the final official performance of the season, Chuck Roberts noted that they are intending to show up for the Great Central City Beer Fest on Saturday, August 24th just for the fun of it. Chuck, Mike and Gary are especially grateful to the merchants on Main Street and wish to thank them for all their support. Mountain Menagerie, Dostal Alley and others have been wonderful in backing them and their performances. Dostal Alley also provides their upper room for a dressing room. Anne in particular makes good use of it as she has a different outfit matching her character’s personality for every skit.
A Little History
Founders Mike Keeler and Chuck Roberts began shooting each other on Main Street in 2011. Chuck heard people talking about the gunfights that used to happen in Central City and thought to himself, “this is something we can do.” Mike and Chuck recruited Gary Huffman to join them, brainstormed a few shootout scenarios then worked with the City for permission to bring back the Old West showdowns on Main Street. “If we didn’t have a great police department and a good chief (Terry Krelle), this never would have happened,” said Mike Keeler. Mike, Chuck and Gary soon began killing each other, but found some resistance to their performances after Gary’s shotgun blasts rattled the windows in the surrounding shops. An agreement was made to restrict their performances to once an hour on the hour giving shop owners and pedestrians alike an opportunity to mentally prepare for loud explosions and black powder fumes. Mike, Chuck and Gary all attend St. James United Methodist Church in Central City and as other members heard how much fun they were having, their numbers quickly grew, adding Bill and Ralph, and “Sweet Annie” Luedders joined just this year. Mike Keeler is on the Gilpin History Board and has hooked up the Wild Bunch Gang with Gilpin History to sell t-shirts so that all proceeds are going to Gilpin History. Funding for the Gang’s ammunition (all blanks), powder and brass, comes from the Business Improvement District spearheaded by Joe Behm. They have become such an attraction that on days when very few people appear to be around, within five minutes of their scheduled performance, people starting streaming out of the shops and casinos to watch them. They end up with a street full of fascinated spectators for every show, and the gang are happy to have their photos taken with anyone who asks. International guests especially enjoy the show as it’s something they never get to see other than in movies, and many times Wild Bunch photos are found on Facebook from the most unlikely sources.
The Wild Bunch Gang is crawling back into their hideout to prepare for the Cemetery Crawl. However, looking ahead to next year, they will be interviewing to add two additional players to their troupe. If you are interested, you must have your own western attire and firearm. Mike Keeler is also hoping to get funding for wireless microphones and sound system. “There are a lot of funny parts in our skits that people don’t hear,” states Keeler, and we don’t want anyone to miss out!”