As Fall begins, the Fenton History Center is a center of activity preparing for the annual Saints and Sinners Tours. These are tours of Lake View Cemetery where guides and costumed actors tell the stories of some of the people now buried in the cemetery.
To create the tour we do not just pick a few names and find their story. Over time serendipity plays a part as research on other topics may highlight an interesting story and it turns out that person is buried at Lake View Cemetery. The name goes on the list, the location of the grave is noted and the list grows. Staff at the Fenton History Center and at the Lake View Cemetery contribute to the list.
When planning begins the list is consulted. The location of the graves often dictate who can be on the walking tour or who can be on the horse-drawn tour. Since we begin at the cemetery office at the corner of Lakeview Avenue and Buffalo Street, any graves near the other end of the cemetery are on the horse-drawn tour. Ones closer to the office are on the walking tour and some of them are included in the horse-drawn tour. Since we have actors to tell some of the stories, actors must be recruited and they must be matched to the stories.
The tour stays fluid for a while as we do more research to “flesh” out the principal person or persons in the story. Some stories are short because of the one incident in the person’s life that we highlight. Some stories are more complex, especially the ones that involve more than the person buried at the gravesite.
The synopsis of the stories are written for a booklet that is available for sale for those who wish to remember the stories. Then the scripts for the actors are written. And the actors begin learning their parts.
Meanwhile the guides are learning the mapped out routes and the stories that are featured along the way. The guides tell some of the stories and the actors tell other stories. The guides are also learning more facts and figures about the cemetery so they can tell some of the history of the cemetery and of Jamestown while moving the group from one site to another.
This all comes together on the first two Saturdays of October. But those mornings find a small crew placing tiki torches to mark the sites of the graves featured on the tours. Also placed are flashlights to illuminate the gravestone in the evening. Later someone has to light the torches and flashlights for the evening tours. We use chalk to draw arrows on the roadways so the guides can quickly check to be sure they are on the correct pathway. Luminaries are also used in the evening to guide the tours in the correct pathways. But someone has to light them and turn on the flashlights and someone has to draw the arrows. Actors need to be guided to their spots if they are not familiar with the cemetery. Staff and volunteers have their assigned duties and things are accomplished by the beginning of the tours.
Other volunteers are taking tickets/selling tickets. Refreshments are available for purchase so we have someone working with that activity. All in all it is a lot of work and a lot of fun mixed in with a bit of nail biting while hoping that all works well and that we have no glitches to work through! Such is the reality of events.
The real fun begins as participants arrive and start off on the tours. The history of Jamestown and its people is told throughout the day and evening.
Sunday evening has a tour that begins at 8 pm. It is a walking tour and features Mausoleums and More. Again there are actors and guides to tell the stories of the families and some of their members connected with the family mausoleums located in Lake View Cemetery. Free refreshments are included in the ticket price.
For more information, call the Fenton History Center at 716-664-6256.