TOMBSTONE — The historic old mining town will be hosting its second “Desert Donkey Dash” as part of Tombstone’s Schieffelin Days celebration and rich mining history.
“We have 85 teams signed up for Saturday’s races,” said Robert Davenport, the event organizer. “We have people coming from all over Arizona and other states for this event.”
Participants can compete in one of three distances — three, six or 13 miles — which gives beginners an opportunity to team up with a burro and compete, Davenport said.
“The 13-mile race is the only one of the three sanctioned by the Western Pack Burro ASS-ociation (WPBA),” Davenport said. “Pack burro races were started in Colorado in 1949 as a tribute to Colorado’s gold mining.”
“Because of the burro’s long history with mining and prospecting, only mining towns can hold pack burro races,” Davenport added. “That’s why I was able to bring this event to Tombstone.”
At one time, Schieffelin Days (also known as Founder’s Days) was one of Tombstone’s big celebrations, but the event fizzled out a few years ago.
“Prospector Ed Schieffelin and the silver mines he discovered in this area are the reason Tombstone came into existence in the first place, so I wanted to bring the event back,” Davenport said. “Introducing donkey races as a tribute to the miners seemed like a great way to celebrate Tombstone’s mining history along with Schieffelin Days.”
The quirky sport requires specific equipment, including a regulation packsaddle, pick, shovel and gold pan. With the exception of mini-donkeys, the saddle and gear must weigh a minimum of 33 pounds. Donkeys wear a halter attached to a lead line no longer than 15 feet, which handlers use to navigate their four-legged teammate.
While the donkey races kick-off Tombstone’s annual Schieffelin Days festivities on Saturday, the two-day celebration features a lineup of family-friendly activities on Allen Street through the weekend.
While Davenport enjoys competing in pack burro racing, as the Schieffelin Days event organizer, he’ll be sitting this one out as he works behind the scenes during the event.
“There’s a lot going on in Tombstone this weekend, so come on out and enjoy the fun,” said Davenport.