Thursday, August 27, 2009

Garrison Graveyard Tour

I am not usually the overwrought, gushing sort. While I usually try to have a positive spin on the posts in this blog, I try not to be overly effusive. Consider this fair warning that I am going to be writing with a few superlatives today.

One of the interesting things about having relatives visiting is that we get to do some of the things that can otherwise get overlooked during the summer. Visitors often mean that we take some time to do things in our community which are outside of our normal routine. In the past week I have been able to get out paddling at Kejimkujik National Park, eaten at a few of our local restaurants and wandered a few of our nature trails. Best of all, I was able to head out on the candlelight tour of the Garrison Graveyard in Annapolis Royal.

Now, let me preface this by saying that I have probably been on the graveyard tour a dozen times through the years. Seemingly every family visitor we have has been taken out on the tour. Working in heritage in Annapolis Royal I also know most of the stories well enough to not only recite versions of them to visitors to our museums but to potentially elaborate on them. For one reason or another I have not been on the tour for a couple of years. Chalk it up to not taking the time to enjoy things going on in your own neighbourhood.

The Graveyard Tour is led by Alan Melanson who is the President of our sister organization the Historical Association of Annapolis Royal. Simply put, the success of the graveyard tour is entirely based on Alan's magnetic personality. Yes the nighttime graveyard setting and the lanterns help. The fact that Alan is working with a fascinating history also helps. But, the true success of the tour is based on Alan's presentation, insight, showmanship and ability to tell stories on the human level. From the moment that Alan pulls a mystery bottle out of his pocket at the start of the tour his audience is entranced. As participants are led into the graveyard, they get the chance to forget their current lives and enjoy the work of a master story teller.

One of the facets of the graveyard tour that I have always enjoyed is that Alan is not exploiting the people who are buried in the graveyard. This is not a ghost and spook tour. There are no cheap theatrics. Alan uses the stories of those buried in the graveyard to tell the story of Annapolis Royal. These stories are delivered in context of who the people buried in the graveyard were. Through their stones we are given an entrance into their times, their world and their personalities. You leave the graveyard with a greater appreciation for the cultural groups and individuals who have worked to build our community. This really is heritage interpretation at its best.

Above all else, I really must stress that this tour is fun. Despite the number of times I have been on the tour, it is not stale. After 16 years of working the graveyard shift (Alan's joke), Alan still delivers his tour with a level of passion and intensity which I find amazing. If I were asked, I would quite happily say that this tour is an essential part of any trip to Annapolis Royal. The Garrison Graveyard tour is quite simply the best interpretive tour I have ever seen.

All for now,

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