Wednesday, November 1, 2023

October Candlelight Tours at Old City Cemetery-- the best living history event!

This year was the 16th season of the Candlelight Tours at Old City Cemetery Museums and Arboretum; it was my first time attending after wanting to go for many years. I attended on October 21 and was on the 8:10 tour, which I think was the last tour of the night and the last tour of the season. 

It was also right after I packed up from holding a book signing event in
the cemetery, so the evening felt extra special.

 The sky was clear and the moon was bright in the sky as visitors were led by lantern light by our “Spirit Guide” through the cemetery to visit six vignettes of actual cemetery residents “from beyond the grave” to hear “their fascinating tales of life — and death.” 
The scene actors and spirit guides were phenomenal. The amount of work that went into this event showed in all the details-- a great script, skilled actors and performers as well as parking attendants (old cemeteries just are not equipped for the size of today’s vehicles or any vehicles!), those who placed hundreds of candlelight bags along the paths, to the ticket takers. 

It was everything that I wanted it to be and more! It was one of the best living history events that I've ever witnessed, which just makes me love Old City Cemetery even more. 

It’s one of my top 3 favorite cemeteries for a reason. Also, it is perfectly normal to have a list of favorite cemeteries. I was excited to see a women writer from my book represented on the tour, but I had not expected that she would be the guest speaker at a church celebration. 

Actress Makeda Payne brought Ms. Lizzie Chambers Hall to life! I wanted to cry and hug her! It was quite emotional, especially since she was portraying a woman writer who is not frequently showcased. 

That is one of the best parts of these candlelight tours- they are not about being spooky or merely spotlighting the who’s who from the cemetery; each year, different cemetery residents are featured after months of research. 

I appreciated that the interpretation of history included three examples of Black women who were interpreted through the lens of Black joy- these women's stories (including Lizzie Chambers Hall, Harriet Burton, Judy Rieves) were respected and celebrated. 

I also thoroughly enjoyed the story of George Liskecomb Wilkinson who enlisted in the army and earned the rank of Sergeant in the Army Air Corps. Actor Russell Hill played George Wilkinson, which was extra special since Wilkinson had been the actor’s Boy Scout leader when he was young. 

Old City Cemetery even offered an accessible matinee tour during the day for those who were not able or interested in taking the nighttime tour. It was certainly dark! 

The tour brought our senses to life with the smell of apple pies (I believe these were actually fragrant apple candles or I missed out on tasty some pie!); I even went home with smoke from the bonfire in my hair. It was a magical night that I cannot imagine being topped.

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