Annual angels draw soldout crowd

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 14, 2005

Natchez &8212; A cool night and a sky full of stars were the perfect backdrop Friday for the annual Angels on the Bluff tour at the Natchez City Cemetery.

Dancers with the Natchez Ballet Academy, representing the five young girls memorialized by the famous Turning Angel at the front of the cemetery, welcomed each group on the tour, which uses local actors to depict some of the cemetery&8217;s residents.

From there, visitors met colorful characters throughout the cemetery, including Lyman Harding, portrayed by Rusty Jenkins, who had a bit of fun describing his rise to wealth &8212; including helping found the first bank in the area.

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&8220;We had the first ride-through window,&8221; he said. &8220;And we gave away 50 toasters before we realized no one had any electricity.&8221;

This year&8217;s tour sold out by 8:30 Friday morning, said cemetery director Don Estes. He praised the actors and volunteers who took time for the tour.

&8220;It&8217;s gone real well,&8221; he said.

Ruth and Barry Johnson made their third trip on the Angels tour Friday night. The Ruston, La., couple enjoys coming to Natchez for the tour.

&8220;We love it,&8221; Ruth said. &8220;One year we came and it rained. It was even good then.&8221;

From the response of the tour groups, year was no exception. Each actor and presenter received a strong round of applause, from Patty Killelea as philanthropist Ricka Tillman to Lance Cpl. Charles Power of the U.S. Marine Corps, who played Taps in tribute to Capt. John Quitman, who led troops into the castle at Chapultepec &8212; inspiring the words of the Marine Corps hymn &8220;from the halls of Montezuma.&8221;

And if visitors did not get their fill of spirits at the cemetery, they could take the advice of Sam Jones, in character as Frederick Stanton &8212; the original owner of Stanton Hall.

&8220;The ladies have done a fine job with (my house),&8221; he said. &8220;You should visit it sometime.

&8220;I do.&8221;