Monday, April 17, 2017

Columbus, Mississippi, 77th Annual Pilgrimage Home Tour

And...The 27th Annual "Tales from the Crypt" Event at Friendship Cemetery

RiverView, Columbus, MS
The beginning of April in Columbus, Mississippi, is so full of events and celebrations that it is almost impossible to do them all. For example, the heritage home tour is not just one event over several days. There are so many historic homes and buildings that they have had to break the tours into areas of town, each with multiple dates for the tour. During the same period, there are parties, carriage rides, food in the "Catfish in the Alley", artisans display, the half-marathon and 5K Run, a picnic, book signings, and a formal garden party.

In addition, during the same time, the Mississippi School of Mathematics and Science (one of the top rated high schools in the nation), which was featured in The Atlantic, put on its annual "Tales from the Crypt" program. Each year Juniors from the MSMS spend a year researching particular people that are buried in the Friendship Cemetery (a cemetery that existed before the Civil War and of course exists today). It was the site of the very first Memorial Day celebration, where  both Union and Confederate soldiers are interred and who were honored by four women from the town of Columbus after the war.

Columbus was a hospital town where both Union and Confederate soldiers were treated. There is also a poem, "The Blue and the Gray" which was written for the soldiers buried here.  From the New York Tribune:
Southern States: Columbus, Miss.
The Blue and the Gray
Francis Miles Finch (1827–1907)
          “The women of Columbus, Mississippi, have shown themselves impartial in their offerings made to the memory of the dead. They strewed flowers alike on the graves of the Confederate and of the National soldiers.”—New York Tribune.

Read the Poem, here.
The MSMS students choose characters they will bring to life during the tales from the crypt program, turn in a research paper, and write a script for their presentation at the cemetery. Only nine student skits are chosen, and those who do not get selected then become tour guides and support for the presentations. Groups of tourists take the tour and listen to the students who become the person who has been buried there. They don't have to be soldiers and they don't have to be people from that era who are brought back to life to tell their stories. As the groups stroll from one presentation to another, guided by a student from the high school, other students perform music, and one can hear the strains of music throughout the cemetery. The tour begins shortly before dusk and continues into the growing darkness. On the opening night this year, over 700 people took the tour. I went on the third night and at least 200 people were divided up into smaller groups and as dusk came and then darkness fell, I could year the presentations all around, though distant enough from my group that it wasn't a distraction. Nor do the personalities buried in the cemetery have to be noble or well known; they can be anyone, and one of the livelier presentations was a personality who married several times, attempting to better herself, and the student did a good job of bringing this complex personality to life.

I decided to spend my time during these few days attending another annual event in Starkville, which I wrote about in my last blog post. And I attended the "Tales from the Crypt" event. Next year, when Cliff is living here, I am sure that we will enjoy the heritage home tour together.

But April and May and on into the summer are very lively times here in Columbus with the annual Market Street Festival, Juneteenth Festival, the Southside/Townsend Park Blues Festival, the Crawford Cotton Boll Festival, and on and on. For me the coming of April and the beginning of all these events heralded the one-year anniversary of when I closed on my house, here, on April 20. A month later, in late May I moved into my house, and I will celebrate that anniversary, as well.

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