HOLLIDAYSBURG — When Tom and Jolene Kopriva retired at the end of 2017, they wanted to do something for their community.
So Tom, who retired as executive director of the Hollidaysburg Area (now Blair Regional) YMCA, and Jolene, who retired as president judge of the Blair County Court, decided to spearhead what has become Hollidaysburg Heritage Guided Tours. After months of planning, the tours kick off Sept. 11.
Tom said he wanted to be productive after retirement and since “Jolene is such a high energy person, this is something we could do together.”
After word spread about the couple’s plans to get involved in Hollidaysburg’s heritage, Tom said other people had an interest, too, and joined in.
The group has been meeting monthly for more than two years, he said, adding that “now it is down to the nuts and bolts.”
Because of Hollidaysburg’s concentrated commercial district, it can be a challenge to attract visitors. “However, our history is remarkable,” Kopriva said. “Jolene and myself, along with about a dozen volunteers, have built a guided tour plan that will be one piece of the puzzle to achieve our goal.”
Hollidaysburg Heritage Guided Tours strives to share the story of the region by immersing participants in walks through history. The tours intend to promote the vital and consequential history of Hollidaysburg to show off the key role the area played in the westward movement and development of the United States.
Through the tours, the group also hopes to attract visitors to showcase the multitude of commercial and recreational opportunities available in Hollidaysburg.
The tour committee has narrowed down six potential tours into two for the time being. Others may be added later, organizers said.
The Port Hollidaysburg Tour will tell the story of the Canal Basin Complex while the Historic Homes Tour will explain the story inside some of the homes that still serve as residences. The home tours will show off the architectural influences found in the designs and provide a glimpse into the lives and times of the original occupants.
Committee member Laura Jones said she attended an historic homes tour a couple of years ago. After that tour, Jones said was interested in participating in the local endeavor.
“It amazes me how many homes in Hollidaysburg are over a hundred years old, and house the stories of the families who pioneered the town,” she said.
After months of planning, “it’s so exciting to see everything coming together and our first tours happening this fall,” Jones said.
The Hollidaysburg Area Public Library will manage the tours and be the beneficiary of the funds raised, Tom Kopriva said.
Janet Eldred, library director, said she was excited that the group chose the library to assist in promotion and distribution of tickets and as the beneficiary.
“Hollidaysburg has so many interesting sites to visit, historic houses and the Canal Basin among the many,” Eldred said. “The tour guides are very educated on Hollidaysburg history, so the participants will learn so much about this community.”
Eldred said that there is so much to do and learn that she’s looking forward to the ongoing guided tours.
The stakeholders collaborating within Hollidaysburg Heritage Guided Tours are to be commended for their efforts and initiatives, said Executive Director Mark Ickes of Explore Altoona.
“The tours will provide an excellent glimpse into the history of Blair County’s county seat and its crucial place within the region’s growth,” he said.
“As Hollidaysburg continues to assume a more vital role as a vibrant trail town along the September 11th National Memorial Trail, the development of the guided tours will provide an additional memorable experience,” Ickes said, adding that Explore Altoona will be incorporating the tours as a special feature on its new website and in its digital campaigns.
Plans for the tours have received a good response, Tom Kopriva said.
To make it a “quality tour worth a fee,” tour guides have been recruited and trained, he said.
The tours are designed to last about 90 minutes and for the sake of the guide and participants, groups will be limited in size to 12 to 15.
Participants can choose their tour and will have the option of having brunch at the U.S. Hotel & Tavern after the tour.
Tours are set for Sept. 11, Sept. 25, Oct. 9, Oct. 13 and Nov. 6.
The cost for the walking tour is $12. The cost for the tour and brunch is $24.
Reservations can be made online at www.HHGTours.org or by visiting the library Facebook page.