TOMBSTONE — “It’s great to see visitors back in Tombstone again, stopping in the shops and restaurants and lining Allen Street for the shows,” Sue Simons said of the town’s annual Showdown in Tombstone on Saturday.
An event organized by the Tombstone Vigilantes, the two-day Showdown, which started Saturday and runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, features reenactments and other entertainment on historic Allen Street, along with an 1880s Old West costume contest with eight categories.
“The costume contest kicks-off today (Saturday) with a promenade down Allen Street, followed by a judging in Schieffelin Hall,” Simons said. “On Sunday, the first place winners in each category will come back for a ‘best of show’ judging,” Simons added.
“I’m very happy with the crowd size that we’re seeing here today. More people entered this year’s costume contest than last year, which is encouraging.”
Simons, a member of the Tombstone Vigilantes and Vigilettes, said she hopes Saturday’s attendance represents a positive forecast for other events that will be happening through the year.
COVID’s mandated closures were devastating to Tombstone’s tourism and hit the town’s economy hard for about five months, said Gordon Anderson, owner of the Larian Motel and one of the town’s event organizers.
“It’s still challenging here for businesses, but with our event weekends slowly coming back again, the weekends are keeping us afloat,” Anderson said. “People are still concerned about COVID, along with the economic worries that come with it. The pandemic created a tough situation for the town during those four or five months when events were cancelled and some businesses were closed.”
Decked out in his Doc Holliday “look-alike” attire, Shawn Bordine of Phoenix, a frequent Tombstone visitor, was asked to judge the costume competition.
“I was the DOC Holli-DAYS look-alike runner-up in 2017, and won the competition in 2018 when Dennis Quaid judged it,” he said. “I’m looking forward to being a judge instead of a contestant for the Showdown event this weekend,” added Bordine, who is a re-enactor with the Goldfield Ghost Town group out of Apache Junction near Phoenix.
Spur Western Wear, one of Tombstone’s popular clothing and accessory shops, was seeing a steady stream of visitors Saturday.
“Like most businesses, COVID caused some hardships for retail stores,” said Spur Western Wear sales representative Cindy Moore. “Not as many people are coming to town, and that is impacting our business. But event weekends like this one really do help.”
“I cannot wait for Helldorado Days in October. It’s Tombstone’s main event, and I was very happy to learn that it’s going to be happening this year, in spite of COVID,” she added.
While careful to keep social distancing guidelines in place, Tombstone’s bars and restaurants were reaping the benefits of increased visitors.
“Our weekends are starting to come back and it’s great to have the bar open again,” said RJ Herrig, owner of Wyatt Earp’s Oriental Saloon. “It killed us to be closed.”
People who embrace 1880s Old West history are drawn to Tombstone for its historic appeal, said Cory Allen, another Doc Holliday look-alike who traveled to Tombstone from Colorado Springs.
“I am the 2020 DOC Holli-DAYS look-alike winner, and I’m planning to be in the Showdown competition,” he said. “I love this town. I don’t belong in the 21st century. The 19th century is where I belong, wearing 1880s attire,” said Allen, who has visited Tombstone three times in the past nine months and plans to move there.
Throughout the day, shop owners and event organizers said they were pleased to see tourists on the town’s boardwalks.
Tombstone Vigilantes President Steve Reeder said that event organizers were hoping for a good crowd for the sake of the town’s businesses as well as the and the Vigilantes organization, a nonprofit that raises money for scholarships and local charitable groups.
“Everyone seems to be having a good time,” he said. “The crowd size isn’t as large as some of our past events, but I think it’s giving the town a boost during this difficult time.”