Re-enactors bring BV founders to life

There is a certain charm to the Arkansas Valley that appeals to all who visit or call this place home. From outdoor recreation to friendly faces and a laid-back atmosphere, there is something for everyone at any time of the year. Not only do local citizens take pride in Buena Vista’s quaint, mountain-town approach to daily culture but also in the history of how this town began.

The Wild West can be defined as an era of antiquity that invokes curiosity and adventure, and Buena Vista’s heritage is full of exciting stories, true to form, like many railroad and mining towns of that day and age. Buena Vista and the surrounding lands are rich with history that can inspire even more interest for residents and tourists alike. For over a decade, locals of BV have brought to life the town’s past through character re-enactment in exploratory cemetery tours at Mt. Olivet Cemetery, located on Buena Vista’s Rodeo Road (CR 321).

Families and people of all ages can spend time among the tombstones while being introduced to some of the more influential and prominent figures who contributed to Buena Vista’s establishment. The cemetery tours, which are ongoing fundraisers for Buena Vista’s Heritage Museum, allow visitors to take a step back and imagine what pioneer life was like in the very streets walked today while listening to actors who are passionate about preserving and sharing the local history.

Louis Shultz (Tim Stang) poses next to his own headstone (courtesy photo).

The next tour will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, July 21, hosted by the mother of Buena Vista, Alsina Deerheimer (played by Judy Epperson). The hour-and-a-half long cemetery tour will familiarize visitors with some of the more celebrated individuals buried there. She will even share Deerheimer’s infamous story of how she named the town and why its pronunciation is still left to argument over a hundred years later. Along the journey, Epperson and her fellow actors will give visitors a taste of what life was like in the late 19th century in Buena Vista.

“We have about a dozen actors, and we look the part in period costumes, down to our shoes and jewelry. It is fun because of the history and feeling like you are reliving that time. It’s fun to dress up and be a person of such colorful history. The people who do it are all very enthusiastic and put in a lot of time to really know their characters,” Epperson said.

Visitors will meet early residents such as the prominent McPhelemys, who donated land for the town and parks; Cock-eyed Liz, Buena Vista’s own madam; and the very first town sheriff, who will tell of his heroic justice during stagecoach robberies.

“You grew up fast on the frontier and that is something people don’t realize, and our re-enactment of these historical figures definitely represents that,” Epperson said.

“You’ll hear about Charles Sharp, who is buried at a diagonal because he owned the mine up on Mt. Princeton and he wanted to be sure to keep an eye on things, so he is still facing toward the mine.”

Rain or shine, these characters are excited to present insight into what has made this town so unique and alluring. The tour is family-oriented and focused on incorporating history in a thoughtful, imaginative way. The oldest grave in Mt. Olivet dates back to 1875, so just imagine the tales buried beneath the soil.

“We hope by offering the tours on busy weekends that it will draw a good crowd. It is much more fun for the actors to be able to interact with people asking questions, and they really get to show off their character portrayal. Come share it with us!”

Buena Vista Historic Cemetery Tours also will be presented on Aug. 11 at 6:30 p.m. and Sept. 9 at 3:15 p.m. Tours are $8 for adults and $5 for children 12 and younger. For more information, inquire at the Buena Vista Heritage Museum.