TOMBSTONE — Despite COVID’s restrictions of social distancing and mask recommendations, Tombstone is rolling out its 91st Helldorado Days celebration with the same exuberance its Old West fans look forward to every year.
“The first time I came to Tombstone, I was with the Rendezvous of Gunfighters, but that group is now called the Showdown in Tombstone,” Mike Mills said Saturday morning just as boardwalks lining Allen Street were filling with tourists and 1880s clad folks of all ages. “We’re now with the Salt River Regulators, re-enactment group out of the Phoenix area.”
Another Buckeye visitor, Larry Musick, said he has been coming to Helldorado Days since 1992.
“I participate to help keep the West alive,” he said. “This is always a great event.”
Tombstone Helldorado Days kicked off Friday with a lineup of activities that celebrate the town’s colorful history.
“We’re even incorporating masks in our 91st celebration,” said Tim Furnas, president of Helldorado, Inc., the group that organizes the town’s annual festival.”
Flyers posted around town a drawing of a masked bandit urging folks to wear masks with the following message: “Tombstone Helldorado Days: Making Masks Fashionable for 91 Years.”
Furnas spoke of how the event’s outdoor food court helps with social distancing, taking some of the pressure off restaurants that are limited in the number of people they can allow inside. In addition, entertainment performances are more spread out to help prevent people from bunching up in small groups, Furnas said.
“We’re having great weather and the visitors have been fantastic,” he added. “People are really cooperating with the COVID restrictions, and everyone seems to be having a good time. I think people are ready to get back out and do things again after all the canceled events.”
For Stacy Edgington and Andrew Westphal of Las Vegas, this is their first Helldorado experience.
“Because of COVID, we had no idea what to expect,” Edgington said. “We’re really having a good time. We were very happy the saloons were open and have been enjoying the town. We love the 1880s costumes and the fact that everyone is dressing up.”
One of the newest additions to Tombstone’s list of activities is bull riding at the Shoot Out Arena. Owners Robby and Katie Jundt were raised in the world of rodeo and organized Tombstone’s first bull riding event, with youth competition Friday evening and open competition on Saturday. The event drew a huge crowd and is earning the praises of local business owners as well as Helldorado Inc.
“The bull riding is fantastic,” said Penny Benson, owner of Tombstone Equine company, a business that offers guided horseback rides around Tombstone. “They put on a very well-run, professional event Friday night, and the crowd loved it. They have the community’s support and I’m so glad they’re here. It’s something new for Tombstone.”
While in Tombstone for Sunday’s parade, be sure to enjoy the different shops and restaurants the town has to offer.
“We want everyone to have fun in Tombstone, while remembering to stay safe,” Furnas said. “It’s great to see crowds of people in Tombstone again.”
Election year 2020 will go down as one of contentious campaigns, mail ballot disputes, deadline challenges and more, all framed by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, perhaps the friction has sparked interest, as voter registration rolls are growing.
As of 11 a.m. on Oct. 16, the Cochise County Recorder’s Office reported 81,600 people had registered to vote with an additional 500-700 registrations still being processed. The recorder’s office details 32,782 voters registered as Republicans; 21,415 are registered as Democrats; and 27,403 are registered as independent and Libertarian voters, the majority of those being independent voters.
In comparison to the state of Arizona, Cochise County voters are 40.2% Republican, while the state is 36.7% Republican. Democrats make up 26.2% of county voters and 37.3% of state voters. Independents are 33.6% of county voters and 26.0% of state voters.
As of Oct. 15, 549,552 ballots had already been returned around the state, according to Data Orbital, which collects data from county recorders statewide. Of these, 32.6% or 178,968 are from Republicans, 47.3% (259,663) are from Democrats and 20.2% (110,920) are from Independents.
The number of people registered to vote in the county is up from the August primary election. For the primary election, 76,795 were registered to vote. County records indicate that 30,680 registered as Republicans, 20,416 as Democrats and 25,699 people registered as independents. The County Recorder’s Office counted 28,523 ballots cast in the primary, a voter turnout rate of 37.14%.
On Oct. 5, United States District Court Judge Steven P. Logan extended the voter registration from midnight of Oct. 5 to midnight of Oct. 23. However, the 9th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the extended deadline and voter registration concluded on Oct. 15.
Cochise County voters took advantage of the extension. Between Oct. 6 and 15, a total of 1,396 people registered to vote. The daily average for registering new voters during the extension was just less than 140 voters a day over the 10-day period, with more than 400 people registering in the last two days.
The overall number of registered voters in the 2020 general election is higher than it was in the 2016 general election, when 75,157 people were registered to vote.
A total of 50,601 ballots were cast.
Data regarding Cochise County statistics such as the total number of mail-in ballots and the total number of ballots cast will be made available by the County Recorder’s Office as soon as possible after the polls close for the Nov. 3 election.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of votes cast and the voter turnout rate for Cochise County in the 2020 primary.