One of Ste. Genevieve’s staple annual events will be returning Oct. 28 for an evening of autumn ambiance and historical education.
The Déjà vu Spirit Reunion, which has been held in Ste. Genevieve’s historic Old Memorial Cemetery for more than 15 years, brings attendees face to face with the "ghosts" of yesterday to learn about different time periods.
The event is held by the Foundation for the Preservation of Ste. Genevieve with the funds raised being used to maintain the historic cemetery.
Suzanne Thompson, a docent with the foundation, portrays Ursula Guibourd, who lived in the Jacques Guibourd Historic House at the corner of Fourth and Merchant Streets. Thompson said she will be one of about 20 "spirits" to be found haunting the cemetery this Saturday.
“There are about 20 this year,” Thompson said. “I portray Ursula Guibourd. In the past, I’ve also portrayed Mrs. Gregoire, whose grave is down the hill and over in a corner.
“There’s not a lot of written history about [Gregoire]. There’s some cool stuff, and I can talk about her for about 20 minutes, but some of it’s more off the cuff. But I know a lot about Ursula Guibourd. Someone else used to portray her, but hasn’t for the last couple of years. So I asked if I could.”
Thompson said some of the performers are Ste. Genevieve natives, but some like her moved to the area recently and took an interest in the rich history of the town.
“This is the cool thing about Ste. Genevieve,” she said. “I can say the people that owned this store live in the house over there, and they got married into a house two blocks down on Washington Street. The fact that you can point to things and say this or that happened is great.”
In addition to being dressed in period dress, Thompson said portraying one of the more than 300 people with marked graves in the cemetery takes research. For example, she recently did further research for her portrayal of Ursula Guibourd so she was familiar with all of the woman’s sisters and their names.
“You get different points of view,” she said. “Some people are strictly historical and want to explain that side, and then you have entertainers. It’s a combination, and it’s really fabulous. Everybody enjoys it, not only the people who do it, but the people who come.”
According to the Foundation for the Preservation of Ste. Genevieve’s website, the historical figures portrayed will be wide and varied.
“You will have the opportunity to meet and hear about Missouri's Model Senator and his wife who was buried twice, and the reason why. There's an aristocrat who fled the French Revolution, and another killed in a politically motivated street fight, a priest known as the 'Patriot Priest,' Missouri's first United States representative, a Civil War colonel killed at the Battle of Shiloh, the daughter of a Spanish era commandant, the first commandant appointed by the Americans after the Louisiana Purchase transfer, a victim of a steamboat explosion, a child whose life was cut short by cholera, plus Mississippi River trappers, traders, and Native Americans.”
Thompson said a few hundred people generally come out for the lantern-lit evening of education in the cemetery said to be Missouri’s oldest.
“People tend to come back,” Thompson said. “They enjoy it so much and then they bring their buddies. There are all kinds of people — there are 20-somethings and all their friends and there are moms and dads with little kids. It’s just fun!”
The evening will start at 5:30 p.m. at the Old Memorial Cemetery, located at 35 N. Fifth Street at Ste. Genevieve and will last until 8 p.m. Admission will be $7 for adults 19 and older, $3 for students aged 6-18 and free for individuals 5 and under. All proceeds will go toward maintaining and restoring the Old Memorial Cemetery.
For more information, visit www.historicstegen.org.