by Kelly Tolbert, Recreation Coordinator, City of Prescott

Special events are critical to many thriving municipalities, and Prescott is certainly no exception. In addition to our mild climate and outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities, various special events held throughout the tourism season provide many options for visitors and residents alike. Typically, events kick off the season in late April with Whiskey Off-Road and conclude with the annual New Year’s Eve Boot Drop on historic Whiskey Row. While the event calendar varies year-to-year, some events have become institutional to certain dates and venues.

Beginning the last week in April, over 3,000 competitive and recreational mountain bicycle riders flock to the Prescott area for Epic Rides’ Whiskey Off-Road to embark on their 15-, 30-, or 50-mile choices of course distances. The carefully chosen combination of City of Prescott and Prescott National Forest trails, coupled with Prescott’s historic downtown business district create a beautifully balanced work hard, play hard environment for mountain bikers of all abilities and ages.

This fun-filled weekend typically kicks off on Friday with the Fat Tire Criterium (Crit, for short) in which professional riders race around downtown Prescott providing onlookers a chance to cheer them along and fulfill hopes of getting a glimpse of their favorite professional riders. Arizona’s own craft beer distributor Four Peaks offers a beer garden onsite to quench any thirst that may arise after all the yelling and cheering.

Saturday morning begins early with the 50-proof course riders lining up at the starting line, followed shortly by the 30-proof and subsequently the 15-proof riders. These time slots provide onlookers more opportunity to cheer on their favorite participants from the downtown plaza while enjoying live music from the festival component, which gets underway mid-morning. The biggest names in bicycle gear can also be found onsite to provide demonstrations, sample products and equipment or to simply add to the overall enjoyment of the weekend’s festivities. Prizes are an added value and include a hefty cash purse, goodie bags filled with sponsor items and a pint glass with a logo for all finishers.

Sunday offers some fun for the young folks with the Shimano Kids Fun Ride that traverses downtown along the Greenways Trails over to Granite Creek Park. Onsite registration is available for the fun ride, and parents are welcome to ride alongside their children for no cost. While all participants receive a souvenir for their involvement, it is important to remember that this event is challenging, and due to the unpredictable climate of late April, proper preparation is essential.

An added benefit to hosting special events is that they offer various volunteer opportunities for members of the community. It is best to check with each individual event site throughout the event calendar year to explore the availability of volunteer opportunities. For Whiskey Off-Road, volunteer information can be found at epicrides.com/events/whiskey-off-road/volunteer.

The most measurable advantage to hosting special events for the Prescott community is the economic impact. According to a survey and economic impact analysis conducted by Arizona State University W.P. Carey School of Business in 2013, it was determined that the riders and event visitors spent an average of $975 per party with approximately 2,000 visitors total. The study also states that “any calculation of economic impact also needs to take into account Epic Rides’ supplier purchases and jobs directly associated with the event (e.g. event marshals). A comprehensive economic impact study will consider ways in which the local hotels, shops and bars use the revenue generated at the event to pay their own employees, suppliers, taxes and other business initiatives. It will also include the cascading stimulation of further economic activity.” The takeaway is best summed up with this last statement.

As with any special event, there are inconveniences to residents, businesses and visitors, however the goal of any event is to minimize these impacts and ensure that everyone benefits either socially, psychologically, fiscally and financially. The City of Prescott special events committee continually strives to promote popular venues such as Watson Lake, Mile High Middle School and the general downtown area while maintaining the lowest impact on visitors and residents alike.

So, please be encouraged to explore something new or old in the upcoming event season. After all, you may discover yet another reason to love our beautiful city. A comprehensive listing of upcoming special events can be found at either of the following websites: prescott-az.gov/services/parks/programs/?category=events or visit-prescott.com/events-in-prescott-arizona.