Inside the Capitol

Friday, July 07, 2006

7-12 Fort Sumner Commemorates 125th Anniv of Billy's Death

FRI, 7-12-06

SANTA FE -- Attention all Billy the Kid fans. Fort Sumner is hosting a 125th anniversary commemoration of Billy's death at the hands of Sheriff Pat Garrett the night of July 14, 1881.
The observance will be held on the afternoon and evening of Friday, July 14, 2006 in the same locales where the action took place 125 years ago. Festivities will begin at 4 p.m. with speeches by dignitaries, followed by a Chautauqua presentation by Ron Grimes from the New Mexico Endowment of Humanities, playing Pat Garrett.
That will be followed by a Shootout and Burial Reenactment by the New Mexico Gunfighters. The following evening, from 8 until midnight, there will be a dance at the fairgrounds. Call 505-355-2573 for more information.
The events are being presented by the Fort Sumner State Monument and the Fort Sumner Community Development Corporation, under a grant from the state Department of Tourism. Fort Sumner has motels and cafes you will thoroughly enjoy, so plan to spend a night or two.
After three years of controversy about whether Garrett shot the Kid, or shot someone else and let the Kid escape, come see and hear the evidence. Decide whether Billy lay on a carpenter's bench all night on public display, bleeding profusely from a massive chest wound and then got up and high-tailed it for Arizona, Mexico or Texas.
The funding for this observance and many more to come is a result of
Gov. Bill Richardson reading "Billy the Kid Rides Again," telling of the intriguing story to dig up Billy and his mother to help determine whether it's really Billy there beneath his tombstone.
In writing the book, I took a strong position that the historians who painstakingly researched the life and death of Billy got it right and that modern police methods can't add enough evidence 125 years later to prove anything else -- despite forensic TV shows to the contrary.
My opinion came not just from the preeminent Billy historians of the day, but also from talking with some of the nation's top forensic scientists. They all supported the historians and say no one can do better.
But since my viewpoint was characterized as negative by the lawmen who wished to investigate further, I devoted a chapter of my book to positive actions that could be taken to promote Billy's story in New Mexico. And another chapter covered additional ideas submitted by readers.
It was those two chapters of ideas that interested the governor. He requested a big appropriation from the Legislature to fund a year of 125th anniversary events throughout Billy the Kid Country. The Legislature, as it must do with its many special funding requests, cut the allotment to $200,000.
But that will help the state Tourism Department immeasurably in working with local communities that already are trying to promote Billy. Very helpful in the early stages of this effort were historian Dave Clary of Roswell, who submitted a comprehensive plan for promoting Billy, and filmmaker Joe Micalizzi of Hollywood, who spent as much time in New Mexico as he did in California trying to create excitement about promoting Billy.
Coordinating the Billy promotional activities for the state Tourism Department is former tourism staffer and longtime Billy authority Mike Pitel, who is traveling Billy the Kid Country, working with local communities, while producing brochures for the public interpreting Old Fort Sumner, Lincoln County and the roads in between.
Coming soon will be a new book by New Mexico historian Marc Simmons, compiling the columns he has written over the years about Billy. Both Simmons' book and mine are published by Sunstone Press in Santa Fe. Ask at your local bookstore or order through
Keep watching this column for more Billy news. Recent controversies are spurring numerous private sector initiatives, not only in New Mexico, but in support of pretenders in Arizona and Texas as well.

Fort Sumner just sent me this news, but I'm sure they would appreciate it being run as soon as possible.
As my old buddy Ernie Mills used to say in this sitution, poor planning on your part doesn't constitute an emergecy on my part.


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