By Michael Wurtz
If it is not yet 9:00 am on Sunday morning then you still have time. Time for what? Time to get down to the Plaza and watch the hose cart races. These races are at least as old, if not older, than our famous World's Oldest Rodeo, which began in 1888.
In addition to the rodeo and the hose cart races during the July 4, celebration, one could find on the plaza, greased pig catching, bicycles races, and burro races. There have been baseball matches with teams who have come as far as Albuquerque (Prescott lost that one in 1895). There have also been drilling contests where competitors would drill a rock as far as they could in 15 minutes. In 1897, officials decided to put the drillers up on a platform, not only to make it easier for the crowds to watch, but also because contestants were reaching a point of "semi-suffocation" without proper ventilation.
Hose company competition included hook and ladder climbing events, the "dry test" event, in which the hose companies would simply run with their hose cart 200 yards, and the "wet test hose race" event, the object of which was for the crew to run to a hydrant 150 yards away, hook up the hose to a hydrant, lay out 150 feet of hose and "turn on a stream." Local newspapers reported that a "good deal of money changed hands" on the events!
In the 1880s and 1890s, teams included the Toughs Hose Co., the OK Hose Co., Hooks and Ladders Hose Co. and the Dudes Hose Co.
Also, during "Prescott's patriotic observance of our nation's natal day" in 1897, the Prescott Hose Team beat the Phoenix team and the paper reported that 3000 people came to watch. Perhaps what we could expect for this year's water fights around the Plaza! Unfortunately, even with all this practice, most of downtown Prescott was destroyed in a fire in 1900.
Michael Wurtz is Archivist at the Sharlot Hall Museum.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (fi133pb). Reuse only by permission.
The Dudes Hose Company Running Team crossing Gurley Street on Montezuma on July 4, 1889, during the straightaway or "dry test" event. The Dudes came in second, behind the Toughs. The Dudes time was better but they blew a nozzle off in the process!