Bisbee was once a bustling mining town back in 1877, tucked into the Mule Mountains of Southern Arizona, only 27 miles from the US-Mexico border. Today, it’s a quirky art town thriving on gay pride with a population of only 5,192.
In 2013, Bisbee passed a city ordinance legalizing civil unions, the first in the state, prior to Marriage Equality becoming law—despite push-back on the new ordinance from Arizona state officials.
Bisbee has been hosting Pride for the past 15 years. What began in 2004 as a small group of LGBTQ+ friends celebrating pride has evolved into a three-day weekend celebration, attracting queers from Tucson, Phoenix, and even Mexico, and completely booking historic hotels, inns, and Airbnbs.
Mid-June brings warmer temps to Bisbee, but a cool breeze from the mountains blows in hundreds of gays for the weekend-long festival. We couldn’t wait for the fun to begin.
The party began on Friday, with Hot Ass Happy Hour at the Screaming Banshee, a local favorite for wood-fired pizzas and stellar drinks. Knotty But Nice garlic knots, honey-chipotle wings, and the Screaming Banshee pizza, with fennel sausage and fresh mozz, were our picks. They did not disappoint. You can’t go wrong with tequila, so we sipped on strawberry-basil and passionfruit margs. If you want to do it for the ‘gram, get the passionfruit; she looks like a beautiful Arizona sunset.
Soon, the Lingerie Pub Crawl surrounded us with lace, sequins, and faux fur shimmering under the multi-colored bulb lights strung across Main Street—lights that aren’t just up for Pride but shine year-round. Drag shows, comedy shows, and risqué burlesque ran into the early morning hours.
Rallying for Saturday’s main event wasn’t optional. The can’t-miss Pride Parade featured a sparkling David Hernandez, the American Idol finalist, in a head-to-toe gold outfit that literally glimmered in the desert sun. The Grand Canyon Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, in their vibrant and unmistakable makeup and wardrobe, made their annual appearance, too. A group of queer nuns, the Sisters, have devoted themselves “to community service, ministry, and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity, and spiritual enlightenment.”
After the parade, we followed the buzz of happiness coming from Pride Village, in Grassy Park, near the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum. Just around the corner, in Goar Park, we caught the beginnings of a drag show before exploring all that Main Street had to offer.
Brimming with art galleries, antique shops, and businesses selling locally made goods, like Bisbee Soap and Sundry’s glittery Gay Bar and Black Sheep Imports’ sassy accessories, Bisbee seduces you into an afternoon delight of shopping.
Hungover, we united on Sunday morning with the other weekend revelers. We staved off our glitter crash and savored mimosas and hot ‘n’ spicy bloody marys at Bisbee Pride’s closing event, Redemption Sunday.
While sometimes overlooked by more well-known Pride festivals, Bisbee Pride isn’t one to miss. The small town’s gay history and artsy lifestyle create a close and energetic sense of community that you won’t find anywhere else.