When it comes to Kalamazoo, history is all around you! Walking tours from Gazelle Sports are helping the community see it.
Picture this: It’s Friday morning on the Kalamazoo Mall. A group gathers outside Gazelle Sports, congregating around Lynn Houghton as she adjusts her fanny-pack microphone in preparation of leading a historical walking tour throughout Kalamazoo’s downtown. Houghton, regional history collections curator at Western Michigan University (WMU)’s Archives and Regional History Collections, has a deep knowledge of the community, which she shares—weekly, free of charge—for her sixteenth year running (or should we say “walking”?).
As the tour group troops through downtown Kalamazoo, Houghton points to the Art Deco architectural style of the towering Fifth Third Bank building and the storied histories of Civil War era buildings about town—but for her, these tours aren’t only about history. “When the WMU Archives first partnered with Gazelle Sports, the original intent for the program was primarily to promote exercise and community-building,” she says. “But since then, we’ve had the opportunity to take it one step further. I like to tell people they will never look at their community the same way again.”
As Houghton plans each tour, she reaches out to local business and community members on her route to share what she calls the “current life” of the community. Stops at organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and Kalamazoo Community in Schools are built into the routes so representatives can share information with walkers that may not have made it in the local newspapers.
The near-weekly walks are co-sponsored by Gazelle Sports and the WMU Archives and Regional History Collections and span from June 2 to October 20—no registration required. With these tours, organizers hope to bring communities to life for participants and get people engaged in their communities, all while racking up those steps!
This summer’s schedule includes tours on Friday mornings and Thursday evenings, each with its own theme, including Preservation in Kalamazoo, Women in Kalamazoo and a tour of historic Richland—you can find the full schedule here.