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New Mexico State University

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World's richest tombstone race to be run in Fort Sumner

The world's richest tombstone race, The Billy the Kid Tombstone Race, with more than $4,000 in cash prizes, will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 9, at the Fort Sumner High School Football Field.

The Tombstone Race draws more that 900 people from all over New Mexico as well as Utah, Texas and Colorado. It is estimated the economic impact of this one-day event is more than $250,000 for the local economy. The race has gained national recognition, with features in the Wall Street Journal, People magazine and on the Today Show.

The tombstone, which marks Billy the Kid's grave at Fort Sumner, has almost as much history as the famous outlaw himself. The stone has been stolen three times since placement by a historical society in the 1940s, and once spent 27 years under a boxcar in Texas following a theft. After its most recent disappearance, the tombstone's recovery in California was shown on national television.

The race is run over a simple, but grueling, 25-yard course. In the open division, two hurdles of four and five feet must be scaled while carrying an 80-pound stone during two laps of the four-lap race. In the women's and the over-age-35 divisions, contestants carry a 20-pound stone and women have a step at the 5-foot barrier.

Fort Sumner has successfully combined the legends of the late 19th century with the vision of the 21st century. The legendary outlaw Billy the Kid sought refuge from the long arm of the law in Old Fort Sumner, only to meet his demise there at the hands of Sheriff Pat Garrett. Today, Western enthusiasts from around the world flock to the village nestled along the Pecos River to view the final resting place of the "Kid."

While many small towns in the area have disappeared, Fort Sumner has been able to absorb their service needs and take advantage of its location, climate and progressive attitude to plan and prepare infrastructure for growth. Young people and retirees coming to the area attest to the desirability of lifestyle. One reason for Fort Sumner's staying power is the tourism activities that are promoted by the Fort Sumner Chamber of Commerce.