BISBEE, Arizona (Border Report) — Founded in the 1880s as a copper mining town, this colorful western border town with stunning vistas and views in southeastern Arizona has undergone a transformation over the past century and now draws artists, retirees and tourists, especially on New Year’s Eve.
Tonight, a parade is scheduled through Main Street in Bisbee starting at 11:30 p.m. and ending at midnight when a giant crown is to be dropped from the Old Bisbee Brewing Company.
This remote, out-of-the-way town of 5,000 residents, set 5,500 feet up in the Mule Mountains in Cochise County, has the feel of the Old West, with flavors and influences from Old Mexico, which is only eight miles to the south.
“Oh I love this place,” said Seth Appell, who runs Old Bisbee Roasters coffee supply company. “When the mines closed, the artists moved in. You could get a house and afford to live here and be creative. That’s what makes Bisbee.”
This is the second year for the New Year’s Eve parade, which is an attempt to bring back the excitement of years past here.
Years ago, the town hosted an annual New Orleans-style New Year’s Eve bash “with stilt walkers, jazz bands, etc., and over time it died off due to the city enforcing permit and insurance fees,” said Rachel Sky, who is a member of the Chicken Committee, which is organizing tonight’s parade.
We might never have what we did back then, but there is enough characters, artists and talent locally to make this parade special.”Bisbee New Year’s Eve parade organizer Rachel Sky
Now, Chicken Committee members fundraise throughout the year “to put on events like these,” she said. “We might never have what we did back then, but there is enough characters, artists and talent locally to make this parade special.”
Set high in the mountains, the town was founded with the discovery of copper, gold, and silver and was nicknamed “Queen of the Copper Camps.” In 1929, the county seat was moved from Tombstone to Bisbee, where the Queen Mine still draws daily tourists.
The Smithsonian-affiliated Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum has had over 500,000 visitors and out front displays actual mining cars that were used at the Copper Queen Mine.
The colorful homes and narrow alleys are all part of Bisbee’s allure.
The roads are so steep and elevation so drastic, that many residents cannot physically drive to their homes, but must park at the base of a hill and walk up steps.
Each year, the town hosts a steps race — The Bisbee 1,000 The Great Stair Climb and Craft Beer Festival — which involves traversing the many stairwells that dot this city, and then indulging in beer to shake the leg pains away, locals say.
“There is never a dull moment. We are a small town with a nightlife and culture. That is a rare thing,” Sky said Rachel Sky.