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Virtual Evergreen Cemetery Walk: A Community Tradition Reimagined

Following a milestone 25th anniversary, the McLean County Museum of History, Illinois Voices Theatre, and Evergreen Memorial Cemetery were already making plans for the 26th annual Evergreen Cemetery Walk. As we reflected on the 2019 experience, we began brainstorming ways we could take the Cemetery Walk to the next level; continuing to improve it and make it more accessible. Ideas we pondered included offering ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters at select performances and, of course, the long requested “non-walking” version of the Evergreen Cemetery Walk. Little did we know just how transformative 2020 would be for this award-winning, signature event.

Ultimately, the decision to take the Evergreen Cemetery Walk virtual via an online platform was driven by the foremost mission of the event—to educate local students on the historic significance of cemeteries. Each year, the Cemetery Walk welcomes over 2,000 students through the gates of Evergreen Memorial Cemetery to bear witness to the stories of people who have helped shape the fabric of McLean County. Embracing an online format best guaranteed that we could continue to reach—and even grow—our student audiences; as well as offer the experience to all new audiences, including older adults in area senior care facilities who have been invited to view this year’s Walk free of charge. We are thrilled that barriers such as geography and mobility have been eliminated by this digital debut.

We are also glad for the opportunity to continue to support members of our local theater community who have risen to the occasion to translate the spirit of this annual event to each of our screens.

True to the nature of the collaborative arts, we could not have done this on our own. So, we ask you to join us in a round of applause for our new partner, Broadleaf Video Production, who helped make our vision for a virtual Evergreen Cemetery Walk into a reality. We also ask you to join us in a physically-distant standing ovation for our sponsor Evergreen Memorial Cemetery, with additional support from the Illinois Prairie Community Foundation, Illinois Humanities, CEFCU, WJBC, WGLT, and Museum members. Without their generous support, we would not be sharing in this history-making, virtual experience.

For twenty-six years, the beautiful grounds of Evergreen Memorial Cemetery have set the stage for costumed actors to bring McLean County’s history to life. To date, the Cemetery Walk has shared the stories of 190 different individuals from all walks of life who illustrate the impact the people of McLean County have had locally and throughout the world. While we cannot gather together on those hallowed grounds, we hope that this virtual experience has captured the essence of a community tradition that has become a piece of history in its own right.

We are thrilled to be able to offer this new and exciting way to experience the Museum’s longest running and most successful educational program. We hope that you will be able to join us from the comfort of your own home or wherever you choose to view the debut digital presentation of the 2020 Evergreen Cemetery Walk. For more information or questions, please contact the Education Department at education@mchistory.org.

Overview

Every year the Evergreen Cemetery Walk brings the voices of McLean County's history to life. Costumed actors portray individuals representing all walks of life from the county's past on the beautiful grounds of Evergreen Memorial Cemetery. This event serves about 3,500 people (mostly students) every year. To date, we have featured 190 different individuals from all walks of life, whose stories illustrate the impact the people of McLean County have had on history – locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. In addition, the impact of the Evergreen Cemetery Walk can be felt throughout the state and nation. 

This award-winning, nationally recognized interpretive program is often referred to as the "granddaddy" of all cemetery walks. Put on your walking shoes and bring your family to participate in this fascinating, outdoor theatrical program.

Evergreen Memorial Cemetery is one of the richest historical resources in our community. People from all walks of life are buried in this over 150 year old cemetery. Rich, poor, famous, infamous, loved or forgotten alike, they are all buried here. Evergreen provides an honorable resting place for all members of our community. 

This annual event is a collaboration between the McLean County Museum of History, Illinois Voices Theatre Echoes and Evergreen Memorial Cemetery

School Tours

The McLean County Museum of History is pleased to announce that all students participating in the School Tours of the 2020 Evergreen Cemetery Walk will attend for FREE. We are committed to reaching out to diverse communities and removing barriers so that we can help as many students as possible discover our local history. Through the generosity of this year's sponsor, Evergreen Memorial Cemetery, with additional support from the Illinois Prairie Community Foundation and support from our members, admission fees for students and chaperones to participate in the 2020 Evergreen Cemetery Walk have been waived.

To access the 2020 Evergreen Cemetery Walk Teacher Packet, Click here.


If you would like to start a Cemetery Walk in your community, download the Cemwalk How To Manual below.

Cem Walk How-To Manual 2019 (5MB)

Location

This year the cemetery walk is virtual, so you can watch it from anywhere in the world with an internet connection! The place that the individuals are buried (and where the cemetery walk is usually held) is Evergreen Memorial Cemetery, 302 E. Miller Street, Bloomington IL 61701. 

2020 Schedule

View the Evergreen Cemetery Walk like never before—available virtually until January 1, 2021.

  • Saturday, October 3 — Friday, January 1
  • Available Online 24/7

Tickets

A household ticket means that anyone in your immediate household can view this event at any time. You only need ONE ticket per household.

To view the Walk, you will view it through Teachable. Once you purchase a ticket, you will use the email address you purchased a ticket with. When you purchase a ticket, you will be prompted to create a password so you can log in to enjoy the production.

Once you log in, you will see the Course you purchased, which is the Evergreen Cemetery Walk (on the left-hand side). Click on that and it will take you to all the lectures for the course (which are videos). You can either watch the Walk as a full-length video, or you can watch the individual parts. Ticket holders will be able to access this event from the comfort and safety of wherever they are and on any device. Click here to download instructions on how to view on a TV and other electronic devices.

If you have any questions about purchasing a ticket, or have problems logging in, please contact Candace Summers, Director of Education, at csummers@mchistory.org. 

  • Museum Members*
  • $20
  • *Household Viewing Price Coupon Code: CEMWALKMEM2020
  • Purchase Tickets

Give Additional Support

Ticket sales only cover about 1/3 of Cemetery Walk program expenses. Please consider making an extra gift to support the Cemetery Walk to help provide free participation for our schools and senior care facilities, and to keep public tickets affordable.

Featured Characters 2021

  • George Carman (1838-1868)
  • George Carman (1838-1868)
  • George Carman was a printer, writer, actor, and public speaker, who served as a Union soldier in the U.S. Civil War, writing letters back to the Pantagraph in the voice of “Boswell,” a figure he had created earlier in newspaper editorials. “Boswell” was known for his humor, wordplay, knowledge of Shakespeare, and strong opinions. Honorably discharged from the McLean County Regiment for a lung ailment, Carman died of tuberculosis at the age of 29.

  • Read Full Biography

  • Alverta Duff (1885-1968)
  • Alverta Duff (1885-1968)
  • Featured with Julia Duff

  • Alverta Duff  and Julia Duff belonged to one of the earliest African American families to establish themselves in Normal, buying land from town founder Jesse Fell. Alverta did domestic work for the Stevenson family. Julia moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma to teach. Alverta and sister Janie went to Tulsa to nurse Julia during the 1918 flu pandemic. The Duff sisters later bore witness to a horror of American history, the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.

  • Read Full Biography

  • Julia Duff (1895-1984)
  • Julia Duff (1895-1984)
  • Featured with Alverta Duff

  •  Julia Duff and Alverta Duff belonged to one of the earliest African American families to establish themselves in Normal, buying land from town founder Jesse Fell. Alverta did domestic work for the Stevenson family. Julia moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma to teach. Alverta and sister Janie went to Tulsa to nurse Julia during the 1918 flu pandemic. The Duff sisters later bore witness to a horror of American history, the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.

  • Read Full Biography

  • Dr. William Hill (1829-1906)
  • Dr. William Hill (1829-1906)
  • Dr. William Hill was a surgeon in the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War. When he came to Bloomington shortly after the war, some disliked him as a Democrat and suspected “bodysnatcher.” But he became well-liked and respected as a witty, outspoken, and tender man who played the violin to his child patients. He lost his only son to complications from a dog bite, and his youngest daughter Daisy married architect Arthur Pillsbury.

  • Read Full Biography

  • Hilda Livingston (1892-1962)
  • Hilda Livingston (1892-1962)
  • Featured with Sigmund Livingston

  • Sigmund and Hilda Livingston are guest voices in this year’s Cemetery Walk. For over 20 years, Sigmund was the law partner of William Bach, who is buried in Evergreen Memorial Cemetery. Sigmund founded the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith to fight anti-Semitism and promote justice. A respected Bloomington lawyer and orator, Sigmund later joined a firm in Chicago. Raised in Elgin, Hilda moved to Bloomington with Sigmund, and raised one son, Richard.

  • Read Full Biography

  • Sigmund Livingston (1872-1946)
  • Sigmund Livingston (1872-1946)
  • Featured with Hilda Livingston

  • Sigmund and Hilda Livingston are guest voices in this year’s Cemetery Walk. For over 20 years, Sigmund was the law partner of William Bach, who is buried in Evergreen Memorial Cemetery. Sigmund founded the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith to fight anti-Semitism and promote justice. A respected Bloomington lawyer and orator, Sigmund later joined a firm in Chicago. Raised in Elgin, Hilda moved to Bloomington with Sigmund, and raised one son, Richard.

  • Read Full Biography

  • Mary Ann Marmon (1837-1908)
  • Mary Ann Marmon (1837-1908)
  • Mary Ann Marmon grew up in a log cabin and was among the earliest settlers in the area. A member of the McLean County Historical Society, she wrote about prairie fires, Delaware and Kickapoo settlements, needlecrafts, and social life. She married and outlived William Marmon, a successful druggist. They hosted a “pioneer dinner party” in 1881 that recaptured the past. She was also the sister of Owen Lee Cheney, featured in last year’s Cemetery Walk.

  • Read Full Biography

  • William Rodenhauser (1842-1919)
  • William Rodenhauser (1842-1919)
  • William Rodenhauser worked for the Chicago & Alton Railroad as a carpenter, losing the fingers on his right hand in a work accident. Born in Germany, he came to the United States in 1882, his family joining him later. They spoke German in their home. As part of the Homestead Act, he purchased land in Colorado, hoping to farm there, but had returned to Bloomington to live with his daughter when he died.

  • Read Full Biography

Past Character Biographies

To read biographies of past cemetery walk characters, visit the biographies page of our online resources.

Questions? Please contact the Museum's Education department 309-827-0428 or via email education@mchistory.org.