By SUE SIENS
As you drive down South Maple Street and south on Highway 231 in Lebanon, you will pass the historic Cedar Grove Cemetery. Dating back to 1846, the cemetery has more than 7,000 residents buried there among the large cedar trees, each with a unique life story. The annual Cedar Grove Cemetery Candlelight Walking Tour allows the community to learn more about our history and get acquainted with a group of these residents, who will come back to life through local actors. They return from the grave to tell us about the times they lived in, and their own special story.
The event is held each year in October, this year on Saturday, October 12th, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Event directors, Amy and Robert Waggoner, emphasize that the cemetery walk is not scary, but it is a lot of fun for all ages. “There won’t be ghosts jumping out from behind something to scare you,” said Robert. “We like to say it is enlightening, and not frightening,” he adds. “Most of our actors are professionals, and they do a wonderful job becoming the person who they represent, and telling their story,” notes Amy. The Waggoners became fans of cemetery walks after they attended the first one held here in Lebanon. It was in 1998, as a part of the Wilson County Bicentennial Commission’s activities.
“After we went to the first one, we were hooked. It is fascinating what you learn about the people who lived here, and then what led to their final resting place at the cemetery,” Amy relays.
Preparing for the annual walk isa lot of work. The Waggoners walk through the cemetery, selecting the residents who will come back to life by looking at their interesting tombstones, studying Wilson County history, and from suggestions from local residents. Then they become private detectives, researching as much detailed information as possible about that person. Robert then writes most of the scripts, noting a few of the actors have written their own.
“The cemetery walk would not be possible without the help of local historians, Thomas Partlow and Linda Granstaff, and Jack and Ruth Cato,” says Robert. “There are so many different actors and volunteers through the years who have helped with the events, it’s hard to name them all. Linda Salts Nelson and Paula Fox directed the walk for many years and deserve a lot of credit. Paula agreed to stay on and assist with costumes and coordinating actors. The City of Lebanon and Sam Crutcher, manager of the cemetery, is a great help too. Some of our actors have performed at most, if not all of the walks, including Julia Cawthon and Martin Frost,” he adds. “Big thanks goes to the local media and businesses who help sponsor the event, and allow us to use their parking lots like Lowe’s and Aspen Dental, and First Freedom Bank that has been a major sponsor for several years.”
If you’ve been to the candlelight walk before, you’ll want to bring your family and come back this year because there will be a whole new group of residents who are coming back to speak to you from beyond the grave. If you have never been, then this is the perfect fall family activity to partake in on October 12th, from 4pm to 8pm.
The leisurely walk takes about 45-60 minutes, and it is recommended to wear comfortable shoes and bring a jacket. The tour will begin at the cemetery entrance facing Highway 231, and it is wheelchair accessible. The cost is $10 for ages 19 and older, $5 for ages 5-18, and children age 4 and under are free. Proceeds from the walk benefit the Cedar Grove Cemetery and the Wilson County Archives.
For more information about the event, visit www.CedarGroveCemeteryWalk.com.
All photos by Dallus Whitfield, used by Lebanon Democrat, unless otherwise noted.