HISTORY OF THE TOUR

By: Shane DelMonaco
 

There is no doubt that the Cemetery Tour is one of the International Festival's most popular events. Whenever I or any of the other actors for the Cemetery Tour go out in public, we always get at least one person who asks, “Hey, aren't you the cemetery guy?”. While the Cemetery Tour is surely a popular event, there aren't very many people who know the complete history of it. The Cemetery Tour has one of the most interesting histories of any event here in Calais, so I am going to share it with you. Now many of you may know that the Cemetery Tour is run by a man named Jerry LaPointe, a very respected local historian and retired teacher. Jerry has been doing the Cemetery Tour for eight years now, starting in 2009. But what many people don't know is that for the first two years, 2009 to 2010, the Cemetery Tour did not feature the characterizations the tour is most famous for today. The first two years of the tour had an entirely different format. Back then, Jerry would take the people who showed up to the tour on a walk through the cemetery, and stop at the graves of notable people and tell the crowd that person's life story. During those tours Jerry would not tell as much information as the actors in the tour do now. During that time, the tour was an event sponsoted by the International Festival, rather than an event sponsored by the St. Croix Historical Society, which it is now. Jerry would do this walking tour twice a week during the International Festival, once in the afternoon, and once in the evening. Jerry says that around twenty five people would usually show up for that tour. After those years of doing the walking tour, Jerry went to a few places in Massachusetts and New Hampshire where they did a similar thing, only with actors in costumes portraying the selected people, rather than just having a historian walk the people through. That's where Jerry got the idea for the tour we do now. Jerry started having the characterized tour in 2011, making this past tour the 6th year of the characterized tour. The first tour had eight residents dress up as people, and to this day the tour continues to portray eight people a year.

The first child actor became interested in the tour after attending a few of the previous ones and became an actor for the event. After that, he got his sister to join so carries on the tradition of having children featured in the tour. After that, more children became interested, including myself, Hannah Gadway, and Brynne Lander. In addition to the kids, Jerry, Al Churchil, Jane Eaton, Candace Dwelley, Lorraine Mitchell, Sherry Sivret, and Jim Thompson have all appeared in the tour. Danny and Carol Hollingdale, Fred Becker, Lura Jackson, and David Beckett have also had appearances in the tour. Jerry has been in the tour for many years, as he is the host of the event, but there have been several years where he has taken a break to make room for other actors. Candace Dwelley has been in the tour for about three years, Sherry has been in it two years, Al and Jane have been in the tour every year, as well as Lorraine. Jim Thompson has been in it most years, Brynne Lander has had two appearances, Hannah has had one appearance, and I have had four. If there are enough people in the tour, Jerry will put two actors together. Candace and Lorraine have grouped together as the Holmes sisters, and Jim and Lorraine have grouped as Jane and Solomon Coy. Jerry has several parts that he wants to include in future tours, including some young Civil War soldiers.

The first year of the characterized tour, Jerry and the actors didn't now what to expect. Jerry supposed that there would be a similar crowd to the original tours, about twenty five people. It was expected that there would be one large group and each actor would only have to present once. On the day of the tour, Jerry and the cast were shocked to see cars and people continuing to enter the cemetery. The crowd seemed endless. Jerry was surprised to see so many people for a seemingly simple event. The crowd got so big, that Jerry had to quiet everyone down and because of the large amount of people, Jerry had to divide the crowd into four groups. Every since that year, the tour has had a similar attendance. Jerry estimates that there have been 150 people or more at each tour. In fact, the tour is so popular that it was spoken about during a city council meeting, where some of the members said that it was the most popular event of the festival. There have been eight potrayals at every event for 6 years, which means that there have been nearly 50 potrayals in total. For each actor, Jerry writes the scripts and most of the actors stick to them, however a few actors like to improvise and add more information. It is tough for Jerry to get all the scripts done on time, but it is a big relief when they are finished and given to the actors so they can prepare for the tour. The Cemetery Tour is a truly great event and Jerry says that as long as people will come, he will keep having the tour.