“You’ve got something that you don’t normally have in a historical event that happened 130 years ago. You have all of this huge paper trail for which you can recreate it,” said Dunham, the Booth’s director of special projects, who also wrote the script, basing it on testimony from the trial that followed the Tombstone, Arizona Territory, gunfight. “So when we do it at the festival, not only are we doing a Western entertainment shootout but I can tell them from the microphone that what they’re seeing is as close to history as any re-enactment will ever be because we have studied this to the nth degree. We pretty much know who fired what shot, in what order and who got hit and how it happened, how it [went] down.”
For the festival, Dunham expands the 30-second gunfight, which turned the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday into legendary figures, into a half hour educational presentation.
“I spend about 12 or 15 minutes telling what led up to it so everybody knows the stories of the conflicts that brought it to happening. And then we do it in slow motion,” Dunham said. “So we run it with no blanks without noise in slow motion so that they can see that exactly what everybody testified happened and then you get a chance to really see who moved what, who did what, who said what because they talked throughout the whole thing.
“… Then we run it at real time with blank ammunition. And the reason why 30 shots were fired is there was like 10 people involved and … three men were killed and three men were wounded and three men ran away. So what’s interesting about it is that when you’re done watching this [re-enactment], not only was it kind of entertaining but you say, ‘You know what, this is really an amazing thing because I just — in a way that the movies never do — know exactly the history of what happened.”
The re-enactment of the famous gunfight will be one component of the four-day event, Thursday to Oct. 28, which will celebrate the American West through art lectures, demonstrations, music and children’s activities.
“We do the event to let people understand a little bit more about what’s going on in the artwork in the collection,” Booth Executive Director Seth Hopkins said. “When they come in and see the paintings and sculpture in the museum, some of the things that are going on are not things that we see in our part of the country or that people might be that familiar with. So when we bring in the dancers and the encampments and the living history folks and so on, I think, it just helps them make a better connection with the artwork by understanding a little bit more about what the people are doing in the paintings and sculpture in the museum’s collection.
“[This event has] certainly grown 10 times in 10 years. The very first year we did it, we had a couple of lectures and we had a small concert event. We did one re-enactment of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and it actually was in a vacant lot behind The Grand Theatre. We didn’t know if anybody would show up but a few hundred people did. People were up on the Church Street bridge and all along the sidewalks around the lot. We knew we hit on an idea that was going to be popular but there might have been  or 600 people that first year and for the past couple of years, we’ve been [drawing 5,000] or 6,000.”
After presenting a school program on Thursday morning, the Festival and Symposium will open to the public with a preview of two exhibitions: “Family Traditions: The Art of John, Terri Kelly and Bill Moyers” and “National Geographic Greatest Photographs of the American West” from 5 to 7 p.m.
From Saturday to March 10, the Booth will be one of 10 museums belonging to the Museums West Consortium that will be displaying the National Geographic exhibit simultaneously.
“We’ve been working with the National Geographic archives for several years to identify the 75 most interesting photographs of the West that are in the National Geographic archives, which includes millions of images,” Hopkins said. “And they have done a companion book that includes 200 images. All 75 that are in the exhibit are also in the book, but there’s another 125 in the book. And it really spans the history of National Geographic. They’re celebrating their 125th-year anniversary this year so it’s a great opportunity to delve into their archives to see these wonderful images, which run the gamut from beautiful landscape photography like Ansel Adams … to images that show very modern things going on in the West like the space shuttle landing or wind farms or the building of the bridge over Hoover Dam.
“Certainly photography exhibits have been very popular [for the Booth]. Adams’ [exhibit] by far was the most visited show we’ve ever hosted. Certainly, we’re hoping that this will appeal to the same audience and have some of the same draw. … It’s just really cool that the Booth is the only Southern museum out of the 10 that are doing the National Geographic exhibition. There’s a lot of national publicity about the show, so we’re really hoping it’s going to bring people all over the South to Cartersville.”
In addition to John Moyers’ artist’s workshop from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday’s offerings will consist of art history lectures in the Booth Theatre from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
On Saturday, the Cowboy Festival will be under way from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the museum’s grounds at 501 Museum Drive in Cartersville. Along with children’s activities, the festivities will feature fast draw exhibitions, re-enactments of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, traditional American Indian dances, Western art and collectibles, and living history encampments. Other events include a Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter 5K Run at 8 a.m. and a concert by Roy Rogers Jr. at 2 and 7 p.m. at The Grand Theatre.
On Oct. 28, the Festival and Symposium will conclude with Cowboy Church at 11 a.m. and activities on the museum’s grounds from noon to 5 p.m.
Admission to activities located inside the Booth and on its grounds will be $10 for adults, $8 for individuals 65 and older, $7 for students, $3 for children 12 and younger, and free for museum members and active military personnel with ID. For more information on the Festival and Symposium and additional charges for workshops, concerts and school programs, contact the Booth at 770-387-1300 or visit www.boothmuseum.org.