Sedona News – “Voices from the Grave”, a pioneer cemetery walk, is back. Hosted by the Sedona Historical Society, guests will enjoy a fascinating, outdoor theatrical program with costumed ‘spirits’ and history.
On Friday and Saturday, October 28 and 29, this step back into Sedona’s past through the lives and stories of local pioneers will feature six new characters portrayed by professional actors. There are two performances each day, at 3:00 p.m. and at 4:30 p.m.
The Sedona Historical Society initiated this program during 2020 COVID-19 closures, but it has become such a popular event, that it is now offered as an annual part of the Society’s schedule to share and celebrate local history.
A limited number of fortunate ticket holders will be going back in time to meet pioneers who lived and worked in Red Rock country, and who experienced triumph and tragedy trying to carve out a life and adventure in this place we call Sedona.
“Voices from the Grave” is performed by professionals with re-enactments at the graveyard where many original Sedona pioneers are interred; the Cook Cedar Glade Cemetery off Airport Road. Participants will be escorted from one pioneer grave site to another for history and some hilarious or heartbreaking story telling by select “spirits” as they recount their lives and experiences in the Sedona of the past.
The cemetery walk provides a unique experience for visitors to meet the early citizens of Oak Creek Canyon, including the first person to be buried at Cook Cemetery, a victim of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic; a homesteader who set aside this first cemetery in what would become known as Sedona; one of the first women settlers in Oak Creek Canyon who was a twice divorced crack shot hunter in the 1800s; a descendent of a well-known Verde family of cowboys; a mother with tragic stories of her children; and Sedona’s first post master.
This is not a cemetery tour, but rather a step back in time with an opportunity to meet and learn from some of Cook Cemetery’s ‘permanent’ residents. Besides the appearances and reenactments by the “apparitions”, there are also musical interludes, ghost escorts, and swag gifts.
Actors portraying the deceased pioneers are Tom and Shondra Jepperson, local actors, singers and entertainers with decades of experience in theater and entertainment with many awards and honors to their credit. Joining them will be Dev Ross, a performer and Emmy winning former Disney writer; Michael Peach, performer and cowboy poet; Mindy Mendelsohn, actress, director, filmmaker and writer; and Dave Belkiewitz who has been performing since he was four years old.
The event is hosted by the Sedona Historical Society as a fundraiser to further the preservation and maintenance of this historic cemetery, which they own. It is also a way to introduce residents and visitors to the bravery and humor of Sedona area pioneers. “Events like this cemetery walk are important,” Society president Janeen Trevillyan said, “because you don’t automatically know a town when you move there. When you have the privilege of knowing really rich stories, I think you should tell them, and we are the guardian of those stories and we want to share them.”
Shondra Jepperson and Dev Ross, Society board members, actors and show producers have stepped forward to produce this event. They have conjured up a superbly talented group of other local actors to join them in these re-enactments. According to Jepperson, “One of the fulfilling parts of creating this event has been learning more about local history. These pioneers gave their lives to the community we love. It’s important to take the time to acknowledge their memory.” Dev Ross added, “And, who knew that some of our pioneers were truly ‘real’ characters?”
Show sponsorships are available by calling 928-282-7038. Sponsors to-date are El Portal Hotel, Sefton Engineering, Sedona New Day Spa and the Artists’ Kitchen Shop.
To insure an intimate experience with the pioneer spirits, participants are limited for each show. Show times are 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. each day. Tickets are $25/person and must be purchased in advance online at SedonaMuseum.org.
Tickets include trick and treat swag gifts. As a fund-raiser, tickets are not refundable and no rain date has been set. These performances usually sell out, so it is advised to get your tickets early.
For more information, call 928-282-7038.