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Top 10 Western Towns: Not Tombstone

Photo taken from True West Magazine

Yet again, Tombstone failed to make the list of  Top 10 of True Western Towns.

True West Magazine released the 11th annual ranking of Western towns for 2016 for how each town preserves its Old West History.

Lubbock, Texas, snagged the title of No. 1 spot. The rankings were published each year since 2006. Tombstone made the list once at No. 9 in 2014.

So, why does the town that champions itself as the epitome of western history not get ranked?

Executive Editor Bob “Boze” Bell says it because the town never bothered to submit its case to the magazine.

He said editors would just shake their heads while looking through submissions and  asked, “Where’s Tombstone?”

Bell said one reason Tombstone did not make previous rankings is due  to factions within the town that fight each other and negate what the other half is trying to do.

“Hardly anybody can compete with Tombstone for sheer historic value. It is the town with the most potential of all the towns we cover,” Bell said.

He explained that Tombstone has the potential to be listed in the Top 10. “We love Tombstone, we really do, but Tombstone kind of lost its way for a while,” Bell said.

Mark Boardman, features editor of True West Magazine, mentions how Tombstone was mentioned in the article, but not declared as a top town.

“There were other years where Tombstone was included in one of the sidebar lists—the obvious places that you just HAD to see,” Boardman said.

Bell described specific qualities Western towns have to be listed in the ranking.

“We look for towns that are doing something creative to keep their heritage alive,” Bell said.

The editors of True West Magazine try to reward enthusiasm and effort. Little towns often make the list because they act bigger than they are. Bell broke down that big cities were rewarded who seek out attention with a strong application, amazing track record and newsworthy public reactions.

Bell gives advice to those Western towns that strive to be listed in the Top 10 ranking of their magazine.

“We are always impressed when we see small towns working hard to keep their history alive. We are always going to respond to that,” Bell said.

Robert Rodriguez, videographer and graphic design specialist at Visit Lubbock, says that Lubbock “received the top ranking because of all the museums that highlight Western heritage throughout the town.” Lubbock, founded in the early 1900s, holds the nation’s largest cowboy symposium and has two rodeos a year.

Two Arizona towns did make True West’s cut: Florence and Prescott.

Robert Coombs, visitor center manager of the Chamber of Commerce of Prescottsaid local events contributed to why his town is ranked No. 4.

“Prescott is a friendly and active city with a lot of events, which gives people a reason to come visit,” Coombs said.

Prescott maintains one of the oldest pubs in the state, The Palace Restaurant and Saloon located on Whiskey Row Street.

Florence, Ariz. which was ranked as No. 10 Top Western Town, offers the same Western vibe that other town’s offer, while promoting Western heritage as well as embracing it.

Lori Wood, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce of Florence, said the town attracts visitors due to its old buildings and local festivals.

“We have history that no one else has,” Wood said.

She mentioned the Pearl Hart case tried in Florence. Hart became a media celebrity for her role in a stagecoach robbery in 1899.

Wood said that Tombstone gears its town to be more of a tourist attraction whereas Florence does not. “No gun fights are present in the town. People visit solely for the buildings of this town.”

Ken Barrett, a member of Tombstone Chamber of Commerce board of directors, said he was uncertain as to why the application never got in the mail. He blamed a low budget and lack of volunteers.

“There are a lot of things that slip through the cracks,” Barrett said.

“No other town looks like Tombstone. This city looks like an Old West Town and it is a miracle that Tombstone still looks the same as it did in the 1880s because we never became a ghost town,” Barrett said.

Councilman Bill Barlow is proud of the town.

“Tombstone offers more of an Old Western theme than any other town. The boardwalk and the buildings from the 1880s offer a distinct historic value, which stands out to the public,” Barlow said.

It took eight years before Tombstone made its debut in the Top 10 True Western Towns in 2014.

Barrett argued that the same towns cannot be listed in the ranking every year.  Yet multiple towns have been published in the rankings each year, specifically Dodge City, Kansas.

“We are what we are and Tombstone is the real deal,” Barrett said.

Rankings:

  1. Lubbock, TX.
  2. Dodge City, Kan.
  3. Buffalo, Wyo.
  4. Prescott, Ariz.
  5. Fort Smith, Ark.
  6. Amarillo, TX.
  7. Pinedale, Wyo.
  8. Lincoln, N.M.
  9. Scottsbluff/Gering, Neb.
  10. Florence, Ariz.

Cassidy Blumenthal is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at cblumenthal@email.arizona.edu

One Comment

  1. Tombstone is the only Western historical town to still be in the same location as in the 1880s. Others, like Dodge City, have actually moved their main streets. All the towns had repeated destructive fires, but only Tombstone has many major 1880 buildings still intact. Tombstone is the real thing. Come for a visit, stay overnight, and walk along the Allen Street boardwalk at night… and who can say? You may be transported to back then, 1881, as the light spills out from the saloons, and ladies in period evening dress stroll by, laughing in the soft watm air. The top Western town? Tombstone… with the others not even close!