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.”