What is the Evergreen Cemetery Walk?

The Evergreen Cemetery Walk is a nationally recognized, award-winning annual event that brings the voices of McLean County's history to life. It is a collaboration between the McLean County Museum of History, Illinois Voices Theatre, and Evergreen Memorial Cemetery, and serves about 3,000 people annually, most of whom are students.

Each year, costumed actors portray people from McLean County's past on the grounds of Evergreen Memorial Cemetery. Their stories illustrate the impact the people of McLean County have had locally, nationally, and even internationally. Volunteer tour guides lead groups through the cemetery and share the history of the cemetery, funerary customs, and introduce the characters.

Cemetery Walk partner logos

The Evergreen Cemetery Walk is about one mile in distance and lasts approximately two hours. Participants are standing and walking the entire time, and the Walk continues rain or shine, heat or cold. Keep this in mind when deciding whether to participate in our in-person or online event. So put on your walking shoes, or gather around the TV, and bring your family to participate in this fascinating, outdoor theatrical program!

2024 Featured Characters

We have featured 206 people in the Cemetery Walk since 1995. To read biographies of individuals featured on past Cemetery Walks, visit our biographies page.

Belt, Augustus "Gus"
Augustus "Gus" Belt (1895-1954) and Edith Pressler Belt (1896 – 1973) successfully grew a single Bloomington restaurant into a nationwide chain. The Steak n' Shake proprietors had several failed business ventures before acquiring a Shell Oil station at the corner of Main and Virginia Streets, which they transformed into a successful drive-in serving hamburgers and milkshakes in 1934. The Belts are this year's visiting voices from East Lawn Memorial Cemetery in honor of Steak n' Shake's 90th anniversary.
Belt, Edith Pressler
Edith Pressler Belt (1896 – 1973) and Augustus "Gus" Belt (1895-1954) successfully grew a single Bloomington restaurant into a nationwide chain. The Steak n' Shake proprietors had several failed business ventures before acquiring a Shell Oil station at the corner of Main and Virginia Streets, which they transformed into a successful drive-in serving hamburgers and milkshakes in 1934. The Belts are this year's visiting voices from East Lawn Memorial Cemetery in honor of Steak n' Shake's 90th anniversary.
Milner, Angeline Vernon
Angeline Vernon Milner (1856-1928), known to most as Ange, is one of Illinois' most famous librarians. Milner became Illinois State (Normal) University's first full-time librarian in 1890, serving nearly 40 years. Her passion for library science drew national attention and shaped the university's curriculum. Milner was a founding member of the Illinois branch of the American Library Association and instituted the idea of teaching college students how to use library resources in their studies, a practice she outlined for other teachers' colleges to follow. Fan Favorite
Angie Milner
Trotter, Georgina
Georgina Trotter (1836-1904) and Sarah Raymond Fitzwilliam (1842 – 1918) were advocates and close friends who wanted better for Bloomington. Businesswoman Georgina Trotter was the first woman elected to the Bloomington Board of Education in 1874. She served alongside educator Sarah Raymond Fitzwilliam, who became the first female superintendent of Bloomington Public Schools that same year. These women had an uphill battle to prove they were worthy of these positions. Together, they worked side-by-by-side to improve the quality of education students received in Bloomington Public Schools and to improve the lives of others in the community. 
Fitzwilliam, Sarah Raymond
Sarah Raymond Fitzwilliam (1842 – 1918) and Georgina Trotter (1836-1904) were advocates and close friends who wanted better for Bloomington. Businesswoman Georgina Trotter was the first woman elected to the Bloomington Board of Education in 1874. She served alongside educator Sarah Raymond Fitzwilliam, who became the first female superintendent of Bloomington Public Schools that same year. These women had an uphill battle to prove they were worthy of these positions. Together, they worked side-by-by-side to improve the quality of education students received in Bloomington Public Schools and to improve the lives of others in the community. 
Sarah Raymond Fitzwilliam
Crandall, June W.
June Crandall (1878-1910), a Kentucky native, came to Bloomington in 1898 and began working as a miner at the McLean County Coal Company on the west side of town. He was one of the earliest labor union organizers and Socialist party leaders in Bloomington. Crandall was deeply concerned about the exploitation of the American working class. He fought hard on various platforms, including in the political sphere, to improve the quality of life for his fellow workers and their families.
Huggins, Sophia
Sophia Huggins (1831-1903) or “Aunt Sophia” as she was known by her clientele, was a claimed clairvoyant who made a living in Bloomington, IL telling the fortunes of a wide cross section of Bloomingtonians. She is featured with the mysterious Madame Annette, a reporter for the Daily Bulletin newspaper who profiled early settlers and touring actresses, chatted about fashion and makeup, and interviewed eccentric individuals like the enigmatic Huggins.
Annette, Madame
Sophia Huggins (1831-1903) or “Aunt Sophia” as she was known by her clientele, was a claimed clairvoyant who made a living in Bloomington, IL telling the fortunes of a wide cross section of Bloomingtonians. She is featured with the mysterious Madame Annette, a reporter for the Daily Bulletin newspaper who profiled early settlers and touring actresses, chatted about fashion and makeup, and interviewed eccentric individuals like the enigmatic Huggins.
Jones, Eva
Eva Jones (1930-1987) was a woman who never turned away from challenging situations or tough decisions. She was the first Black person elected to the Bloomington District 87 Board of Education in 1971 and the Bloomington City Council in 1979. In these leadership roles, her voice amplified the needs of previously underrepresented individuals during a period of increased racial tension in the community and across the country. Outside her elected positions, she also worked with McLean County's YWCA, League of Women Voters, and United Way.
Eva Jones
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until the 2024 Cemetery Walk

It's Cemetery Walk time!

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Ticket Sales Begin Tuesday, September 10, 2024 at 9:00 a.m.


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Group tours the cemetery walk

Sponsors

The Museum is pleased to announce our sponsors for the 2023 Walk. Because of their support, the Museum can again ensure that over 2,000 students and chaperones, and additional older adults living in senior care facilities, are able to participate in this year’s Walk (whether in-person or online)! 

Without support from our sponsors and community members, we would not be able to fulfill the primary mission of this event—to educate local students on the historic significance of cemeteries.

Download our 2024 Sponsorship Information packet here for information on becoming a sponsor. Download our 2024 Advertising packet here for information on advertising in our playbill. For questions, contact Norris Porter. 

Featured Sponsors

History of Evergreen Cemetery Walk

Evergreen Memorial Cemetery is one of the richest historical resources in our community. However, through the 1950s-1990s, the cemetery struggled with maintenance and vandalism. In 1986, vandals overturned 35 headstones—bringing the total to 200 for the previous two years; more vandalism occurred in September 1990. 

In an effort to prevent further vandalism, Evergreen Memorial Cemetery, McLean County Museum of History, and Illinois Voices Theatre developed the annual Evergreen Cemetery Walk to teach the community about the historical importance of cemeteries and the need to treat them with respect and reverence. Since the inception of the Walk, instances of vandalism have declined, but do continue. The goals of this program are to bring awareness of this problem to the public’s attention and foster respect for community cemeteries in the young people who participate.

Over the years, the Evergreen Cemetery Walk grew into an award-winning, nationally recognized interpretive program. It is often referred to as the "granddaddy" of all cemetery walks. Every year we bring the voices of McLean County's history to life. Costumed actors portray individuals representing all walks of life from the county's past on the beautiful grounds of Evergreen Memorial Cemetery. 

This event serves about 3,500 people (mostly students) every year. To date, we have featured 210 different individuals, whose stories illustrate the impact the people of McLean County have had on history – locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. In addition, the impact of the Walk can be felt throughout the state and nation.

During the COVID-19 pandemic the Walk was forced to navigate some major challenges. In 2020 we were forced to go fully remote, and in 2021 we went hybrid, with an in-person walk with reduced capacity and a virtual video option. We are proud that we were able to meet those challenges head on and continued to host the Walk. In fact, the addition of a virtual option has allowed for a new audience, who previously were unable to due to barriers such as mobility or geography, to enjoy the Walk.

Because of all of this, the Evergreen Cemetery Walk is better than ever. We plan to continue to provide a live in-person Walk in conjunction with a pre-recorded online video. Thank you to our partner Broadleaf Video Management for helping us present a quality virtual production.

Large group cemetery walk tour