Experience Woodlawn Cemetery like you never have before at Voices from the Past: Woodlawn by Lantern tour in Sioux Falls. Performer Melissa Sutton has been involved with the event since its inception, which gives attendees an up-close experience with some of Sioux Falls’ most historical figures.
Put on by Siouxland Heritage Museums, the event sells out quickly and is one of the Halloween season’s must-see events.
I STARTED DOING THIS EVENT… the first year it was held and have performed every year other than two when I took a break. I hate to miss it.
HOW THE EVENT WORKS IS… we get to portray famous people in history from the Sioux Falls area who happen to be buried in Woodlawn Cemetery. Guides with lanterns bring small groups around to each actor to hear our stories.
WHAT IS REALLY UNIQUE ABOUT THIS EVENT IS… it’s done in the dark in the beautiful cemetery. It’s not a ‘ jump out and scare’ event, but it’s history told in a fun and entertaining way. I mean, walking through the cemetery by lantern light? How much fun is that?!
MY CHARACTER IN “VOICES IN THE PAST”… is once again Luella Belle Pettigrew. She was the sister of R.F. Pettigrew, the first U.S. Senator from South Dakota. Luella Belle was fascinating as an educator, missionary, and leader of the Anti-Saloon league. She certainly had something to say!
MY FAVORITE PART OF DOING THIS EVENT IS… the stories. [Siouxland Heritage Museums education assistant] Paavo Rasmussen does so much research on the people we’re going to portray and then writes the scripts for the performances. I love learning why it’s named Phillips Avenue, who were the Millers from Miller Funeral Home, etc. That and performing with Glenda and Tiffany. The three of us together have so much fun!
WHAT: Voices from the Past: Woodlawn by Lantern Tour
WHEN: October 24-26 // Various Times
A MOMENT THAT STANDS OUT FROM THE EVENT IS… one year I portrayed the murdered wife of Thomas Egan, the first man executed in Sioux Falls. He was accused of murdering her and was hanged on the site of what is now the Minnehaha County Museum. It took them three tries, as the rope broke twice. And in the end, his daughter confessed on her deathbed that she killed her stepmother and let her father hang for it.
ONE THING THAT REALLY SPOOKS ME OUT IS… when I’ve portrayed a character by myself, standing in the silent cemetery alone, under a full moon. It’s beautiful, but it really gets my imagination going.
OTHER FALL ACTIVITIES I LOVE ARE… going to pick apples at the orchard, picking out pumpkins to decorate my front step, and walking through the Outdoor Campus while the leaves are changing.
MY FAVORITE PLACE TO GRAB A BITE OR DRINK IS… for coffee I love Josiah’s [Coffeehouse, Café & Bakery] downtown, and for dinner I always enjoy Jacky’s [Restaurant]—so good!
MY DAY JOB IS… I’m a travel agent. My husband and I own our own agency [Up N Away Travels] and it makes me so happy. I work really hard, but I really am an example of if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life.
WHEN I’M NOT ACTING OR WORKING, I’M… traveling. I’m blessed to travel with my husband several times a year. I never actually vacation, though, as I bring work with me, but working while sitting on the beach isn’t so bad.
I’VE ALSO ACTED… at the Worthing dinner theater, with the Bare Bodkins Theatre Company, and many times on the stage at the historic Orpheum [Theater Center] downtown.
RIGHT NOW I’M READING… a travel guide to San Juan, Puerto Rico. We’re going there in December for the first time and I want to learn everything I can.
MY CURRENT HOBBY IS… online games. It’s a nice break from work.
MY FAVORITE THING ABOUT SIOUX FALLS IS… it’s such a great city. Amazing food, theater, art, parks, schools—it’s why we moved back home from Minneapolis to raise our kids here.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT SIOUXLANDMUSEUMS.COM.