By Blake Herzog
For almost 20 years volunteers have provided free weekend walking tours of downtown Prescott allowing residents and tourists to see history up close — but if you’ve been on one, you definitely haven’t been on all of them.
Joe Childs, the Prescott Chamber of Commerce’s coordinator for the tours, suggests repeat visits, because he and the other four guides bring their own interests and spin to the stories, personalities and structures that shaped the city while picking up new tidbits along the way.
“That way you pick up a little bit more information, you hear a story that’s maybe swayed a little bit differently than the one you’ve heard before. You’ve got five opportunities to get a little bit more information than you did on the last tour.”
The tours are offered Friday and Saturday mornings May through October, but they’re also available by reservation for $5 per person any day of the week and any time of the year, weather permitting.
The 90-minute treks cover about a quarter-mile, going around Courthouse Plaza and east on Gurley Street to the Hassayampa Inn and Elks Theatre and Performing Arts Center.
“There’s an awful lot of information that we dispense, and there’s a lot more that is left on the table just because you only got 90 minutes to give it out,” Childs says.
The tour participants last summer were a mix of about 40% visitors and 60% locals, he says, including new and longtime residents and visitors from around the country and globe.
“So you get to build these wonderful bonds with people from other countries, from other states, and when they come back into town they’ll call me and say, ‘we’re thinking about coming back, are you going to have this available?’ And I’ve even had ones that just call and have wished me a happy birthday for guy’s sakes,” Childs says.
High school and Yavapai College history classes are sent on the tours every year, but not as many young families take advantage. Childs says he knows of a couple of high school students who might be interested in leading tours once they graduate.
Tour guides learn the lay of the land by shadowing the more experienced guides, then writing their own scripts. Childs says he’s hoping to build the number up to its pre-pandemic level of seven to nine by May so Sunday tours can be offered again.
One thing Childs is always reminded of while giving tours is just where Prescott gets its “Everybody’s Hometown” nickname from, he says.
“People will say, ‘We have a clock in our courthouse and it rings just like this one.’ Or they’ll say, ‘Yep, we got a bar like that.’ So there’s something that many people will pick up and say, yeah, it’s just like my hometown.’’
To confirm downtown walking tour times or reserve a special tour, call the Chamber of Commerce at 928.445.2000 or visit www.prescott.org/walking-tours.html. A new website is expected to come online soon.