Southern Arizona Spotlight

Once a mining town, now a haven for artists, Bisbee blooms with festivals

About 90 miles south of Tucson is Bisbee, the county seat of Cochise County, once a bustling copper mining town. While touring the historic Queen Mine is a blast — especially in the summer, when it’s a cool 47 degrees underground —there’s plenty more to do and see in Bisbee, now a quaint artists’ colony and retirement community.

Set amid the mile-high Mule Mountains, Bisbee has many well-preserved turn of the century Victorian structures. Old miners’ boarding houses have been turned into bed and breakfast inns, while old saloons are seeing new life as art galleries and antique shops, cafes and restaurants.

Bisbee attracts tourists from Southern Arizona and around the world with its laid-back charm. Residents and merchants also host a number of festivals and other events. Next month’s activities start with the Bisbee Mariachi Festival on Nov. 7, organized by the Bisbee Coaltion for the Homeless and the Friends of the Bisbee Animal Shelter. Held in Old Bisbee City Park, it will feature folklorico dancers, food and other vendors, beer and margaritas along with five mariachi bands: Los Changuitos Feos, which was started in Tucson in 1964 and is widely regarded as the first youth mariachi group; Mariachi Luz de Luna; Mariachi Sonido de Mexico; Mariachi Milagro; and Mariachi Aztlan de Pueblo Magnet High School.

The following weekend, from Nov. 13-15, Bisbee will play host to another music festival, the 4th Annual Sidepony Express Music Festival (, showcasing independent music from the Southwestern underground at venues all over Old Bisbee.

Nov. 14 is also the date for the monthly “Bisbee After 5,” a second Saturday art walk featuring handcrafted items from Bisbee artists. More than 30 galleries, shops and restaurants will be open until 8 p.m. The SamPoe Gallery will also feature “Altered Books,” a fundraiser for the Friends of the Copper Queen Library.

The Bisbee Film Festival, “One People One Planet” will be held Nov. 18-22, screening U.S. and international films. Selections are curated and focus on how humans treat each other and our en­vironment. Several directors/producers will be on hand for a Q&A after screenings. A special presentation will focus on how “Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope” was dubbed in the Navajo language. Clips will be shown and audience members will get the behind-the-scenes story of how this version was made. For more information and trailers, visit

November events wrap up with the 33rd Annual Bisbee Historic Home Tour and 14th Annual “Chairs of Bisbee” Art Chair Auction on Nov. 27 and 28, presented by the Bisbee Woman’s club. This year’s tour of more than a dozen sites in Old Bisbee is titled “Hidden Treasures.” The art chair auction, which will also feature mirrors, tables and other décor items, will be held both days, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., at Central School Project, 43 Howell Street in Old Bisbee. For more information, visit

The Festival of Lights holiday event also will be held Nov. 27, 2-8 p.m. at City Park and will feature a Border Patrol color guard, live music, performers, games, prizes and a tree lighting at dusk.

For more Bisbee information, including restaurants and accommodations, visit