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September 27, 2013

4th Annual Rose Hill Cemetery Costumed Tour

MERIDIAN — It’s tour time.  Yes, tomorrow we’ll gather in Rose Hill Cemetery for the 4th annual tour, beginning at 6 p.m. The popularity of this tour is amazing. This year the tour inquiries have been nationwide and include requests for hotel, restaurant, and even airport information.

    Indeed, Rose Hill Cemetery Costumed Tour is the largest Mississippi heritage event in the East/Central portion of the state and is also the best attended storytelling event in Mississippi.

        The first three years brought 5,000 plus attendees, total – even last year we had 1,000 attendees with terrible weather. Yes, there was a hurricane in the Gulf and tornado watches in our area and still they came, with umbrellas in tow. We expect the largest crowd of all tomorrow, with the sunny and cooler weather shining upon us.

         One would ask – why would a local grassroots effort, with no budget, appeal to so many people? Perhaps it is the energy and enthusiasm of the volunteers. You see this year we have 100 plus volunteers, including players, security, tour guides, and additional supporters.

    When I canvassed the volunteers earlier this year as to their participation for the 2013 tour, no one said NO! Actually we have a waiting list – so many would like to be a part of this exciting event. It’s heart-warming. This year we have added twelve new security volunteers and five new guides.

    We’ve improved the logistics in an effort to shorten the wait. Quickly I must say – no one has ever complained to me about the wait. People have said – yes, they waited, but the tour was worth the time spent in line.

         Earlier this year in one of our board meetings, we made the decision to add four storytellers in costume outside the front gate to tell Meridian/Mississippi inspired stories for those waiting in line. For these stories we feature (1) The Grand Opera House (2) Union Station (3) History of Rose Hill Cemetery (4) History of Meridian. Something else new this year, Lauderdale County Archives & History (Ward Calhoun and Leslie Joyner) published a book featuring the actual photos and life stories of those we feature. The book will be available for purchase ($15) the night of the tour as well as a highly professional video of the 2012 Rose Hill Tour ($15).

        The Gypsy family is still our big draw and again this year the Queen and King will speak to tell their amazing story. Also, Meridian’s two feuding founders, Mr. Ball and Mr. Ragsdale, will continue their rather heated debates. Rev. & Mrs. Bozeman will be on hand to tell of their train ride to Meridian, when coming to First Baptist Church – they will tell of the famous person they met on the train. The widow Shackleford continues to tell the truly amazing story of her husband, Dr. Shackleford, and she will introduce those famous “lady friends.”

    The Yankee soldier, Charles Rubush, who fell in love with a Meridian belle and returned to marry her after the Civil War, will tell of his love for this community and all of the great work he accomplished for Meridian. Mayor and Mrs. Dial will reminisce about the Golden Era of our city. Nebraska Read, the only woman buried in Rose Hill’s Confederate Mound, will reveal her “great love” who was Charles W. Read, a Confederate Naval hero, plus there are many additional stories.

         Rose Hill Cemetery is located on 7th Street and 40th Avenue (across from Calvary Baptist Church), and is owned by the Benevolent Fund, Inc. Although the date of the first burial is unknown, the first stone marker is dated 1853. Prior to that date the wooden markers have been lost to history.

    In 1873 Rose Hill Cemetery was acquired by two Masonic Lodges and one Odd Fellow Lodge. Today Masonic Lodge No. 308, plus the Benevolent Fund, Inc. administer all cemetery operations. Mr. Walton Moore and Richard Whitehead, along with their board, oversee all maintenance and cemetery needs.

        So why do the people come? Although the entire history of Meridian is not located in Rose Hill, a great deal is there. I think folks come to celebrate history and heritage, to give respect for those who came before and against all odds made the city successful. I hope you will come out tomorrow and enjoy some of the stories of the people who rest there, as we, The Rose Hill Company, teach history and heritage through the arts of storytelling and drama.

    What: 4th Annual Rose Hill Cemetery Costumed Tour (a historic tour, not haunted).

    When: Saturday, September 28, beginning at 6 p.m.

    Cost: FREE and open to the public – suitable for all ages.

    Location: 7th Street and 40th Avenue (across from Calvary Baptist Church)

    Parking: $3 per car in Calvary Baptist Church and Calvary Christian School parking lots (fundraiser for the school).

    Anne McKee is a writer and

storyteller. Visit her website: www.annemckee.net

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