For those interested in the history of mining in central Arizona, the Town of Superior is the place to be this weekend when that community offers a glimpse of the “past, present and future of mining” with the 30th Annual Apache Leap Mining Festival.
Festivities begin Friday evening, March 16 and continue throughout the weekend, with music, family entertainment, competitions and historical talks at the Superior Chamber of Commerce. This year’s theme is “Women in Mining: From Pickaxe to Boardroom.”
“We were nervous about it at first, but it’s been well received,” Superior Chamber President Sue Anderson said. “There will be six speakers throughout the weekend talking about women in mining. Sydney Hay, president of AMIGOS, a mining support organization, will honor us with her presence as grand marshal.”
The festival begins Friday at 5 p.m. with a carnival, beer garden and music by Armour Gomez starting at 7 p.m.
Saturday kicks off with a parade on Main Street at 10 a.m., setting the tone for a day full of events and entertainment for the whole family. In the evening, there will be food, vendors, live entertainment and dancing in the street until 11 p.m.
In addition to Chihuahua races and talks on such topics as “Women in Mining” and “Women in Mining Geology,” there will be four competitions including a timed sawing event, spiking, drilling with 120-lb jackleg drills and team mucking from 1-4 p.m.
“The mining competitions are grueling competitions and it draws hard-rock miners from all over,” Anderson said. “This year, the University of Arizona is bringing a team up from its mining school. They have a mining competition team that goes all over the world to participate in events.”
The UA Mine Competition Team, from the UA College of Mining and Geological Engineering, consists of six competitors who will use this event as a warm-up for a trip to Cornwall, England at the end of March for the 40th Annual International Intercollegiate Mining Competition, according to team captain Corbin King, a senior in the UA mining program.
The competition began in 1978 to commemorate those who died in Idaho’s Sunshine Mine fire in May 1972. It was one of the worst mining disasters in U.S. history, claiming the lives of 91 miners, while 83 lives were saved.
“The UA team will be one of 39 teams from seven different countries,” Corbin wrote in a recent email. “The competition includes seven events, four of which are the same events taking place at the Apache Leap competition.”
And in keeping with the theme of women in mining, two of the six team members are women, including one who is a grad student from Brazil.
“We’re hoping we make a good showing and are happy to have two women on our team,” Corbin said. “Women have been integral to mining all along.”
Winners will not only enjoy the prestige of winning, but there will also be a $2,500 purse waiting at the end of the competition.
In addition to the adult mining events, this year there will also be opportunities for the kids to join in.
The Apache Leap Mining Festival will also have a Kid’s Zone, where younger attendees can “pan for copper” and “engage in a series of challenges that represent actual mining tasks.”
“It’s an educational feature,” Anderson said. “Of course, they’re drilling through Styrofoam and panning for pennies, but it will be fun for them.”
On Sunday at 11 a.m., there will be a 2-hour guided hike to the old Highway 60 tunnel, leading into another day of activities and entertainment ending at 6 p.m.
Representatives from Resolution Copper Mining will also be on hand throughout the weekend to answer questions and provide information on mining in Arizona.
“The event reminds us that’s who we are and I don’t see that changing, especially with the Resolution mining operation,” Anderson said. “It will be able to provide 20 percent of U.S. copper needs for 60 years.”
Anderson has been a member of the chamber for more than a dozen years and has chaired the festival for the past five years.
The Superior Chamber now boasts 120 businesses, thanks to a recent Renaissance in the town.
“Mining has always been critical to the area for the jobs it brings and this is an annual celebration of that,” Anderson concluded. “It reminds us of the importance of the industry and the hard work the miners put into it.”
For a complete schedule and event updates, see this week’s Copper Country News, go to www.superiorarizonachamber.org or call the Chamber at 520-689-0200.