SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Every October, the Siouxland Heritage Museum puts on a “Voices of the Past” event at the Woodlawn Cemetery where local actors recreate events and stories prominent to Sioux Falls history.
While all tours are sold out for this year, KELOLAND News caught up with Paavo Rasmussen, an education coordinator from the museum, to talk about the history of the tour and what people who attend can expect.
“They get to stop and listen to local actors portraying people from Sioux Falls’ past and telling stories about the history of Sioux Falls, how they got here, things that happened in town, notable occurrences,” Rasmussen said.
The museum has been hosting “Voices of the Past” every October for 13 years. Rasmussen said once he chooses an area of the cemetery to cover, he researches the history of the people buried there and starts to build a narrative based on their stories.
“I look for people that have interesting stories or prominent names, people you may have heard of or people maybe you should have heard of,” he said.
Rasmussen said that while most of the history is accurate, they do take some creative liberties to make a more interesting story.
“Most of the information is very solid, we do research and have names and dates and everything like that,” Rasmussen said. “We do play a little bit on the edges of some of the characterization and stories. It’s very much ‘based on a true story,’ but a little better than say Hollywood.”
This year’s tour will take place on Rose Hills, where notable figures of Sioux Falls like R.F. Pettigrew and George Burnside are laid to rest.
One of the people in this year’s tour is Dana Bailey who died in 1908. Bailey was State’s Attorney of Minnehaha County from 1890 to 1895. In 1899, he wrote ‘Bailey’s Minnehaha County History.’
“Lots of our pre-1900s history really starts with his work,” Rasmussen said. “He compiled a giant, thousand-page book with biographies and stories of where the towns and various people came from during settlement.”
Another Voice from the Past this year is Elva Tate Cashman. Her father was an early settler in the community and she died in 1944. Cashman was one of the first people to graduate from Washington High School and eventually taught there before she married.
Rasmussen stressed that the Voices of the Past tours are not intended to be scary as they want to respect the people they are representing.
“We do this as a way to encourage people to try to see a cemetery in a different light and then also to see Sioux Falls history and the museum system in a different light,” he said. “It’s not a place to be spooked out by, but a place to learn about your family, but also other people’s families.”