BRISTOL -- The cemetery commission is preparing for its fourth annual Lantern Tour around West Cemetery, which features impersonators who play historical individuals that made an impact and are buried in Bristol.
The majority of impersonators are Bristol Historical Society members and relatives or friends of the historic individuals, explained Mike Saman, president of the historical society and chair of the cemetery commission.
He added that the tour is organized by the commission, which maintains four cemeteries, and it is believed that this year there will be 10 impersonators instead of eight.
“The tour is scripted, but the impersonators could go off script. It’s always focused on learning about history though,” he said. “People really enjoy the event and remember it.”
The tour began because about four years ago the commission was looking for an event to hold, Saman said, and it was noticed that “Cedar Hill Cemetery did a lantern tour.”
This sparked the idea of holding a similar event at West Cemetery, he explained, and individuals who organized the Cedar Hill Cemetery tour helped organize the commission’s first.
“The first year, we hoped enough people would attend and about 200 people showed up. The second year, there were over 250 people. There are usually a lot of people,” Saman said.
He noted that the first two years of the event, it was free, but the historical society lost money and there is now a five dollar donation when registering.
Everyone who plays a part in organizing the tour met in February to decide if they wanted to incorporate or change in the tour, Saman noted, and it was concluded that many attendees would appreciate the tour beginning earlier.
The tour used to begin at 7 p.m., however, this year they are trying to begin at about 6:40 p.m. and “we might even start at 6:20 p.m. if there is a need.” There is about 10 time slots, each can fit about 30 people and run about 20 minutes.
Saman stated that last year the theme was “The Dash,” which derived from a poem by Linda Ellis in 1996. He explained that tombstones have the day an individual was born and passed away written on them, and in between those dates is a dash, “So we asked, ‘what did you do in your dash?’ ”
This year, the theme is “saved by the bell,” he added, and the only way to find out more is to go on the tour.
Mums will be placed throughout the cemetery that will also be used on the historical society’s float in the Mum Festival parade.
“I buy mums for the float then take them off, save them and use them for the tour,” he said. “The impersonators then take them home.”
Participants can bring their own flashlights and there will be glow sticks used to mark the tour’s path, Saman added, and CERT will be present to help with parking and any individuals that may not have the endurance to finish the tour.
Registrations opens on Sept. 10, and it can be done online at bristolcemeteries.com. The tours meet at the Barnes Chapel in West Cemetery and participants can sign in and get tickets. Walk-ins are welcome, but Saman said that the first couple time slots usually fill up quickly.
Lorenzo Burgio can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 860-584-0501 x5088.