FLDS exile to offer tour of polygamist communities
Those curious about the polygamous community that has thrived on the Utah/Arizona state line for nearly 75 years may now take a guided tour through what promoters bill as "the largest and most secluded polygamist colony" in America.
"Why the prairie dresses and long braids? No makeup? More than one wife?" -- all questions to be answered during "The Polygamy Experience: A Guided Tour of Colorado City."
The four-hour excursion promises accounts from guides "who have actually lived and loved 'The Creek,' " the historic name for Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The first tour is set for Saturday.
How inhabitants will react to be putting on display remains to be seen, particularly given those behind the new company.
Among them: Richard Holm, who was exiled from the FLDS faith in 2003 by prophet Warren S. Jeffs and has been one of the sect leader's most vocal critics. Other founders include Heber Holm, Richard's brother, who left the community 35 years ago, but now will return as principal tour guide.
"I admit readily that my name is considered -- how shall I say it? It's not highly regarded in the local community at this point," said Richard Holm, once a well-regarded businessman there. "I have no desire to hurt anybody or vilify or be negative in any way ... We want it to be respectful."
FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop laughed when asked about the tour. "They want to come into the community like it's a spectacle," he said, "when for us, it's like the circus is coming to town. We hope people have more of a life than to be suckered into that sort of scam."
Holm said a 29-passenger bus will ferry tourists from St. George into Arizona. Guides will discuss the origins of fundamentalist Mormonism, abandonment of polygamy by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and offer insights into historical and current events in the twin towns.
Holm said the tour route will loop around the walled-in complex in Hildale where Jeffs formerly lived with his wives and family and will make stops at schools, parks, a dairy and cheese store and two cemeteries.
Tourists will stop for a picnic lunch in a park -- or dine at a local restaurant -- before continuing to the community's airport and to Centennial Park, a separate polygamous community.
Holm operated a restaurant and motel in the community years ago and said he toyed with offering a tour back then.
"Thousands and millions go right by that community in a year's time and all they've heard about is negative and it's a closed community," Holm said. "There has been no invitation to the outside world to stop and say hi, get a drink, spend a night and see the beauty of the area."
Holm said the public reaction has been positive. "I have had dozens say that it is a good idea and they would love to go into the community and see what is going on and haven't dared go off the highway with all the reports and rumors and things of that nature.
"I expect in time people will find it is a positive thing," he said -- and even an economic boon, as they find things to sell to tourists.
"The Polygamy Experience: A Guided Tour of Colorado City" is offered by Identity Tours, founded by former members of a polygamous sect in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.
Tours depart at 10:30 a.m. from the Fairfield Inn in St. George on Saturdays.
Cost is $69.95 for adults, which includes transportation, the four-hour tour, lunch and drinks. For more information, visit http://polygamytours.com or call 877-520-9955 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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