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Prescott tops Old West towns list, Tombstone flunks

'Town Too Tough to Die' doesn't survive rankings

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In the battle for Old West dominance, the town of Tombstone wasn’t even invited to the fight.

True West Magazine’s seventh annual ranking of Old West towns across the country, did not include Tombstone in the Top 10, while Prescott was named No. 1.

The towns’ ranks were based on three things, according to Bob Bell, the magazine’s executive editor.

First, what the town has done in the last year to promote and preserve the historical integrity of the community. Second, the projects taken to make this happen. Lastly, the town is judged on its residents’ progressive vision and their attempts to make the town more historical.

So why was Tombstone left off True West’s list? Bell said the two key reasons were political infighting and authenticity.

George Barnes, city clerk and city manager, was disappointed with the rankings and is in the process of trying to increase Tombstone’s tourism.

“We have a mind to establish a promotions manager, a professional person who actually has a lot of skills and background in doing that sort of thing,” Barnes said. “We have been searching for a number of months to find a right person, which means don’t settle on it quick.”

Barnes said that he felt Prescott deserved of the top ranking and that he can’t fault the other guy for doing a good job.

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Tombstone artist John Ludwig agreed and said that bigger towns might have some more political pull that could help with their ranking.

“There is a lot of money in Prescott,” he said. “Prescott is a very serious upscale type of situation. Obviously you have more economic pull there. I don’t think it’s even half as interesting, from a Western history background, as Tombstone but that’s just me.”

Tombstone needs to focus more on its history, Bell said.

The town is “straying from the historical West to a more commercial, tourist West,” Bell said in an email. “It is a tough thing for a town to do. Virtually all the towns in the West deal with this. Some more successfully than others.”

Tombstone Councilman Steve Troncale disagreed with the ranking whole-heartedly.

“That’s their opinion, not mine,” Troncale said. “I really don’t know what politics has to do with history.

“What True West Magazine doesn’t understand is this is what Tombstone’s legacy is; there has been political infighting for the last 130 years. Political infighting is business as usual. The only thing we don’t do anymore is hang people.”

Not all Tombstone residents disagree with the ranking. Stephen Keith, owner of Tombstone Huckleberry Productions, felt the rankings were fair and that Tombstone had it coming. Keith said the town didn’t know how to market itself, and won’t take advice from others.

“It squandered global name recognition on a retirement hobby for playground bullies instead of running a tourist attraction,” he said.

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1 comment on this story

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1517 comments
Feb 23, 2012, 4:48 pm
-0 +0

I’ve been to Prescott once. I went for an athletic contest. I didn’t really know what to expect…and I was very pleasantly surprised. I had a phenomenal experience. Good atmosphere, good people. I was very impressed. I have my second trip there planned for next month.

However, all that said…Prescott does have a lot of really cool historical stuff. But more than Tombstone? I just don’t know about that one.

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Kevin Nadakal/Arizona Sonora News Service

Re-enactors on Allen Street in Tombstone. The 'Town Too Tough to Die' couldn't hold out to make True West Magazine's Top 10 Old West towns.

Top 10 Old West towns

  • 1. Prescott
  • 2. Leadville, Colo.
  • 3. Coeur D’Alene, Idaho
  • 4. Oklahoma City
  • 5. Ruidoso, N.M.
  • 6. Santa Barbara, Calif.
  • 7. St. Louis, Mo.
  • 8. Dodge City, Kan.
  • 9. Bismarck, N.D.
  • 10. Grapevine, Texas
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