Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tombstone Arizona's Helldorado Days

The day started in the Arizona border town of Douglas, across from Aqua Prieta, Mexico. Heading west on Highway 80 the main destination for the day was Tombstone.

About 22 miles prior to Tombstone we came upon an unexpected little pleasure named Bisbee. Bisbee is an old mining town, with a big open pit mine named the Lavender Pit. Bisbee is now known as an artist's colony.

Bisbee is in very hilly territory, with its quaint Victorian houses built on steep slopes. Bisbee reminded me of Lead, South Dakota, another mining town with a big open pit mine.

From Bisbee it was north towards Tombstone. Arriving in the fabled Wild West town, the first surprise was all the cars. And people.

We had unwittingly arrived in Tombstone during Helldorado Days.

In July of 1881 a luckless miner sent a letter to the editor of the Tombstone Nuggest complaining that rather than find their Eldorado of riches, many men ended up broke, washing dishes or other menial jobs, find their life in Tombstone to be Helldorado, not Eldorado.

The name stuck. Helldorado Days started in 1929, making it the oldest festival in Tombstone.

If you attend Helldorado Days, which this year takes place October 15 -17, and you want to attend in western garb, keep in mind that handguns, even toy ones, are not allowed in any of the saloons or other liquor purveyors. You can check your gun in at the smoke shop before hitting the saloons. In Tombstone you can bring your kids with you in the saloons during daylight hours.

About 2 hours after our arrival in Tombstone, after finding the OK Corral and after having a good late breakfast in a hotel's dining room, the Helldorado Days Parade started up.

This is one of the most unusual and wild parades I have ever seen. Lawmen (or where they outlaws?) marched in the parade, along with saloon girls. The lawmen (or outlaws) would fire their guns into the air as they walked along. You are looking a pair of shooters reloading in the photo at the top.

I found the gunfire very jarring. It was loud and concussive. I'd never heard such a thing in a parade before.

As you can see with the Red, White & Blue float, being in authentic Wild West garb is not a requirement for the Helldorado Days Parade. Unless I'm remembering my history wrong and bikinis were worn in the 1880s.

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