Evergreen Cemetery Walk Brings History to Life in Bloomington

Reposted from The Pantagraph

By Olivia Jacobs; Photos by Olivia Jacobs

BLOOMINGTON — The 27th annual Evergreen Cemetery Walk will return this weekend and next with in-person walks on Sept. 25-26 and Oct. 2-3. Performances take place at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day at Evergreen Memorial Cemetery, at 302 E. Miller St. in Bloomington.

The walk started in 1995 as a call to action to prevent vandalism in the cemetery. McLean County Museum of History staff learned about the walk and thought it would be a unique and innovative way to bring local history alive, educate the community and preserve the cemetery. 

“It’s a point of pride to share the stories of people who made the history,” said Candace Summers, director of community education at the museum. “We don’t sugarcoat history and we do our best to portray it as accurately as possible.”

The event also provides four days of school tours for public, private and homeschooled students. Approximately 2,000 students and chaperones attend in a normal year and 1,500 attend on the weekends. This year attendance has been limited to half the normal amount, so Summers believes about 1,000 people are expected to attend over the next two weekends.

“It’s a labor of love,” Summers said. “I’m always learning and researching about new people, and I love that people come back every year and want to have the same knowledge and care about the cemetery.”

A promotional sign for the Evergreen Cemetery Walk in front of Evergreen Memorial Cemetery, 302 E. Miller St. in Bloomington.

The walk has featured 196 individuals in the past 27 years. The eight characters for this year’s event were selected in March.

Among the featured individuals this year are Hilda and Sigmund Livingston, George Carman, and the Duff Sisters, who witnessed the Tulsa race massacre, which had its 100th anniversary this year.

“It’s an honor to be able to perform, witness and participate in history,” said Dean Brown, who portrays Sigmund Livingston. “You seem to perform just fine until a camera is put in front of you and it’s different.”

Dean Brown and his wife Cindee, who portrays Hilda Livingston, have been in the Bloomington-Normal area for over 20 years. This is Cindee’s second year being a part of the walk and Dean’s third.

“I love working together with Dean and I love the cemetery, the stories and the history it represents,” Cindee Brown said. “The filming crew was also so professional it was easy.”

In addition to the in-person events the next two weekends, virtual and hybrid options will be available for the public to watch from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31.

In-person tickets are $20 for the public, $18 for museum members and $5 for students and children. Virtual tickets are $25 for the public and $20 for members. The hybrid option is $30 and offers one ticket for the in-person walk and one ticket for the virtual walk.

“I’m really excited that we are back to in-person this year,” Summers said. “I feel like you lose something when you’re not able to walk around, see the beautiful monuments and experience live theater.”

The McLean County Museum of History is always looking for new people to showcase in the walk and encourages the community to share ideas with them as they are already working on plans for next year’s event. 

Tickets for the event can be purchased at mchistory.org.

Illinois Prairie Community Foundation awarded a 2021 Mirza/Arts & Culture Grant to the McLean County Museum of History for the Evergreen Cemetery Walk.

If you would like to help fund more programs like this in the community, donate online to IPCF’s Arts & Culture Endowment Fund which helps fund the Arts & Culture Grants.

Top Photo Caption: Dean and Cindee Brown portraying their characters Sigmund and Hilda Livingston at Evergreen Cemetery.