The life of a Fredericton City tour guide

Still of the Fredericton downtown attraction 'Heritage Walk.' (Submitted: Fredericton Capital Region)

Ever thought of getting a tour of downtown Fredericton directly from a Loyalist? The closest you can get is the Guided Heritage Walking Tour, where a historically costumed tour guide will walk you through historical sites throughout the city with a twist of theatre on the side.  

Starting at Fredericton City Hall at 4 p.m., Will Pacey, a St. Thomas University alum, leads a tour to educate people about Fredericton’s illustrious history.

Being a tour guide for five years, he offers more than just a historical tour of Fredericton; he also has personal connections with the city and its people. His father, Peter Pacey, is the founder of the local theatre group The Calithumpians, and has been leading walking tours for over 40 years.

“I sort of take a page out of his book and make it like my own,” said Pacey. “Inject some of my personal history, personal connections to some of the history in Fredericton.” 

Karen Daigle, the product development and operations tourism coordinator for the Fredericton Capital Region, said the Heritage Tours have existed longer than she has been an employee, which is over 30 years.  

“It’s been many, many years that we’ve been doing this,” said Daigle. “The history might not change, but the way you portray history certainly does.”  

Heritage Walk guides have a “very long, large” script that tour guides need to memorize and follow. As tours are an hour long, guides often customize their tours to include the most important information, while also catering to different audiences as well as their own interests. 

“They’re usually quite passionate deliverers of the tour and they’ll find things that really speak to them,” said Daigle. 

As a child, Pacey grew up around George Street and lived in a house that belonged to poet Jane Elizabeth Roberts MacDonald, who published poems about his childhood home. This piece of personal history is something he mentions in his tours.  

“It’s pretty unique. Not everybody has these poems about living in a brown house,” said Pacey. “Just to know she found solace in this house and comfort like I did too.” 

Aside from his poetic childhood home, Pacey has always had a connection to music and theatre. Both of his parents were involved with the Calithumpians, so he often spent his time watching theatre productions and live music performances. 

“I spent a lot of time around the Calithumpians and went to the shows every summer at lunch hour, wanting to be that someday.” 

His dream of wanting to be a Calithumpian came true as he is now the artistic director of the company. In his time with the theatre troupe he has written many shows, which can range from parodies of children’s songs to educational pieces about social issues. The theatre-based approach he takes to his shows also applies to the historical information he gives on his tours. 

“I find it can get through to people in a different way,” said Pacey, “it’s kind of like the spoonful of sugar method: like a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. So the entertainment factor kind of helps the information be more palatable.” 

From retelling the history of Phoenix Square, to reciting a 30-line poem about the Fredericton Coleman Frog, a gimmick Pacey performs in his tours, the Guided Heritage Walking Tour keeps Fredericton’s history engaging.

“We have a lot of history here that not a lot of people realize.”