Angels on the Bluff talk for 12th year

Published 12:06 am Saturday, November 12, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Peg Shonebarger watches the presentations during the Angels on the Bluff event Friday night at the Natchez City Cemetery.

NATCHEZ — Fifteen groups of 50 patrons huddled forward Friday between the luminaries lining paved walkways winding through the Natchez City Cemetery at sunset to listen to the dead talk.

Approximately 1,700 lucky ticket holders this weekend will have experienced Angels on the Bluff, the Natchez City Cemetery’s 12th annual fundraiser, which brings the stories from beneath the graves to life.

Donning Civil War-era garb, Ginger Hyland and James Wesley Ford told the story of Linton, Surget and Postlewaite families and the tragic downfall Clifton Plantation.

Spectators watch as Ginger Hyland and James Wesley Forde portray Frank and Charlotte Surget.

“It was the White House of the South,” Ford said of Clifton.

In addition to the 700,000 lives lost in the Civil War, Ford said, the plantation’s demise when it was blown up with “Yankee explosives” and set on fire was another tragedy of those times.

After dark, spotlights illuminated scattered monuments, like those of Dr. C.T. Chamberlain and The Rev. Charles B. Dana, along the route to the next set of angels.

Jonathan Pegues portrayed Louis Kastor, a black man buried nearby who established himself in Natchez as a saddle maker.

Pegues set the guests of the cemetery at ease with his introduction.

“It’s OK, you can talk to a dead person,” he said, beckoning them to bunch closer.

Diana Glaze, a who dressed in 1940s military garb to portray a member of the Greatest Generation from the World War II era, said she thinks the event draws such large, sold-out crowds because of the uniqueness of both the stories and the Natchez City Cemetery.

Jon Shonenbarger, who moved to Natchez two years ago, said he attended the event last year and begged to participate this year.

“In all my career I’ve never heard of anything like this,” he said.

Jonathan Pegues portrays Louis Kastor during the Angels on the Bluff event Friday night at the Natchez City Cemetery.

Shonebarger stood dressed in 19th century clothes on top of Jewish Hill, which offered a completely unobstructed, orange-lined view of the Mississippi River.

Shonebarger portrayed Isaac Lowenburg, who died and was buried just a few feet away from where Shonebarger stood in 1886.

“It’s fascinating — the stories.

The fundraiser helps with operational costs of the cemetery.

“(The Natchez City Cemetery) is such as mammoth historical location that has to have donations…I’m blessed to be a part of it,” Shonebarger said.