Columbia Cemetery comes alive for Memorial Day

COLUMBIA - Cemeteries are rarely used as venues for fun events, but Memorial Day in Columbia creates an exception. 

The Friends of the Historic Columbia Cemetery filled the Columbia Cemetery with food, people, costumes and actors to enjoy a walk back in time. Seven actors, dressed like some of the historic figures buried there, recited monologues full of biographical information. 

Jack and Nancy Holloway, a couple fairly new to town, said they had been to similar events elsewhere, but Monday's event really stood out.

“I loved the vignettes and hearing the stories and history behind some of the individuals that started the city here," Nancy Holloway said.  

Craig Yeger, who played James L. Stephens, said the event is a learning experience for both the visitors and the actors. 

"I didn’t know a lot about Mr. Stephens, but I did a little bit of research," he said. "I just assumed he was an educator since there was a college named after him. But after learning my lines, I found out he was a store owner and business man."

This was Yeger's first time participating, but for more seasoned participants, this year stood out because of one reason: the heat. 

"Other than that, I'm having a blast," said Kevin Crane, who was performing for the second year in a row - this time as General Oden Guitar.

He said, no matter the weather, he loves being a part of the event because of the opportunity it offers people who visit each year. 

“This is a great place. It tells you a lot," he said. "Some people are kinda freaked out by graveyards, but this is a really historical journey back in time for Boone County."

Guitar and Stephens were only two of the cemetery's main attractions. There were also reenactments of Victor Barth, Richard Henry Jesse, Mary Paxton Keeley, John Lange Sr. and Robert Beverly Price. Each monologue was performed 4 times throughout the day. 

The cemetery is the oldest in Columbia. It is the final resting spot for most of the town's early 19th century leaders, who were instrumental in establishing Columbia.

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