With Memorial Day and the summer coming many of us start planning picnics. Common places are local and national parks, amusement parks, and even our back yards. How many of you are planning a family outing at the local cemetery? Sounds like a bizarre place to gather for a family picnic?
It is quite possible many of your ancestors’ spent their Sundays and holidays picnicking at their local cemeteries. No they were not morbid. It was a common destination around the turn of the century especially for working class people who lived in cities. Cemeteries were many times the only open “green” spaces that these families had easy access to by local transportation such as streetcars. They could enjoy a day in the “park” and pay their respects to deceased loved ones at the same time.
Many cemeteries were actually developed with this purpose in mind. One of the first “rural cemeteries” as they were called was Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh, PA. This is a beautiful old historic cemetery.
You can check out their website, Allegheny Cemetery. They have wonderful photos and very interesting history. They also have an online database with all the people buried there.
Once a year they have a festival called “Doo Dah Days”. This is to honor Stephen Foster the famous composer who is buried in Allegheny. It includes food, music and even a petting zoo. I plan on attending this year on July 10, 2010. This is the website with specific information about Doo Dah Days. Check out their video below from past Do Dah Days Festivals.
Of course this is right up my alley because I love spending time in cemeteries. Will I get my family to join me? Not sure because I got some strange looks when I said a festival in a cemetery. My daughter’s comment was “A petting zoo in a cemetery? Really? Are the sheep dead?” No the sheep are not dead. Plus I can visit my deceased ancestors and have lunch with them. They won’t hog my food, talk too much, or complain how long I spend with them. Sounds like a perfect family gathering to me!