Right to left, Dan Pomeroy, Terri Lieder, Wendy Davis, and Esther Bronk acted as members of the Clark-Jackson family during the 2015 Woodlawn Cemetery Walk. Photo by Chris Rogers.
by ALEXANDRA RETTER
At the annual Cemetery Walk, attendees can amble through time. The walk brings portrayals of historical figures and strolls through the cemetery together to inspire interest in and spread knowledge about the history of Winona. This year, the walk will celebrate Winona County parks and bring Winona icons such as Clinton Dabelstein, John Holzinger and Rose Bambenek to life.
The walk will take place at Woodlawn Cemetery on Saturday, October 12, and Sunday, October 13, from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., with the last tour leaving at 3 p.m. Each tour will take about 90 minutes to two hours, said Genia Hesser, executive director of the Winona County Historical Society (WCHS). Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students and $3 for those 12 and under; it can be paid at the gate.
There will also be a fully accessible event at 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 10, at the Winona County History Center that will allow those unable to traverse the cemetery to enjoy the actors’ work indoors, Hesser said. Admission will be the same as at the cemetery, and it can be paid at the door.
The theme of this year’s walk is “Parks,” and several of the sites along the walk will be about Whitewater State Park, which is celebrating its centennial this year, Hesser said. Levee Park, John Latsch and the Princess Wenonah statue, among other sites and historical figures, will also be represented along the walk.
“Some of the people [portrayed for the walk] aren’t as well known,” Hesser explained. “They’re the people behind the things we take for granted.”
Clinton Dabelstein will be enacted at a stop showcasing the history of the POW camp at Whitewater State Park. Others who helped shape the varied beauty of the county’s parks who will be portrayed include William and Sophie Finkelnburg, Daniel Sinclair, Louise Garvin, Kent McQueen and many more.
The walk will take place outside “unless it’s an absolute downpour,” Hesser stated.
“We’ve done surveys, and people enjoy going through the cemetery,” Hesser said of the popular WCHS fundraiser.
Hesser said around 50 to 100 volunteers, from script writers, researchers and actors to people who help with parking and people who assist with setting up treats and hot drinks at the entrance to the cemetery, are giving their time to make the walk a reality. Planning for the walk has been taking place since about August.
“It’s the 21st year this year, so by now, they’ve got it down to almost a science,” Hesser said.
Hesser said there will be a special program for students during the week. “It’s really cool that students are getting exposed to history in a new manner and in some ways ‘meeting’ the people who created some history,” Hesser stated.
Tim Leahy, superintendent of the Woodlawn Cemetery Association, said recovering from the tornado that impacted the cemetery in September has been going well. He explained that restoration efforts have not significantly impacted planning for the walk.
“We’ve had some exceptional help from the city of Winona, and a group of volunteers from the Fire Department came and helped us,” Leahy said. “Recovery is going to take a period of time. We’re working hard and trying to restore it the best we can … we’re moving forward.”
Leahy added that staff members at the cemetery have worked countless hours to help restore the grounds. Numerous volunteers have assisted with the recovery process as well, he stated.
Leahy said staff members at the cemetery are glad to prepare the grounds for the walk each year. “We take great pride, in regard to [the walk], to get the grounds looking presentable. So, there’s no question that we were going to try to deliver,” Leahy shared. “The only way we wouldn’t have done it is if there was anything of significant danger to the public, and we ruled that out early on.”
DVDs featuring footage of past walks will be available as a fundraiser for the cemetery’s continued recovery, Hesser explained. Leahy said he appreciates the fundraiser.
David Dambach will be acting, entertaining and educating as he portrays William Landon during the walk. Dambach said he received a packet of background information about Landon, who is remembered for having commissioned the Princess Wenonah statue to honor his late wife, to help prepare for the role.
“It’s really neat that someone would care enough for another person to do what he did for his late wife,” Dambach stated, adding that he looks forward to educating people about the history of Winona and entertaining them.
“There are a lot of people involved,” Dambach said, “both actors and people behind the scenes, that really deserve credit.”