By Cliff Radel
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The last place anyone wants to end up is in a cemetery.
Yet, Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum wants people to do just that Sunday for the Cincinnati landmark's eighth Heritage Celebration.
Among the lures: walking tours, photo exhibit, Spring Grove honey, hot dogs and live music.
In a cemetery? In Cincinnati?
"We are trying to create great memories," said Spring Grove executive vice president Tim Smith. He sees the lushly landscaped, 158-year-old, 733-acre site as "a place where people can go and have a wonderful time."
IF YOU GO
What: Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum 2003 Heritage Celebration, no admission charge.
Where: 4521 Spring Grove Ave., Winton Place.
When: Noon to 4 p.m., Sunday.
Events: Walking tours (Civil War history, noon to 12:45 p.m. and 2-2:45 p.m.; autumn color horticulture, 1-1:45 p.m.; sculpture and history, 3-3:45 p.m., reservations required); music (Delta Kings Chorus, 1:15-2 p.m.; Pete Wagner Orchestra, 2:25-4 p.m.); Cincinnati Fire Museum display; Boys of Summer presentation on big-league ballplayers buried at Spring Grove, 1-1:45 p.m., reservations required; Paul Briol photography exhibit, 2-3 p.m., reservations required.
Reservations: Call 681-7526 or Web site.
But do it in good taste.
"Respect those who have gone before," Smith said. But also enjoy "a place that is friendly and has things you typically would not find in an American cemetery."
The celebration is a case of history repeating itself. A century ago, American families often made a day of visiting loved ones' graves.
"The five shelter houses in Spring Grove attest to that," Smith noted. "People would come in, tie up the carriage, meander about, enjoy the scenery, have a sandwich.
"We're trying to recreate that," he added. The celebration's message is "pause a little bit and think of the great heritage we have."
Spring Grove's Cincinnati heritage is unparalleled. Priceless graveside sculpture abounds. Twenty-three trees are the oldest of their species in Ohio, two are the nation's oldest. The main entrance is framed by the Historic Office Building designed by Samuel Hannaford, the City Hall and Music Hall architect buried in section 110.
The cemetery is the final resting place for 41 Civil War generals, nine Ohio governors, two Baseball Hall of Famers (Waite Hoyt and Miller Huggins) and famed mid-20th-century photographer Paul Briol.
In June, public relations manager Monika Jorg found 96 Briol photos in the Historic Office Building.
"They were just wrapped in brown paper, tied with a string and sitting on a shelf," she said.
Briol's works, Spring Grove landscapes, make up the celebration's photo exhibit inside the cemetery's Jon Deitloff Funeral Centre.
Across America, cemeteries are becoming livelier places. They're adding museums, cafes and voice messages from the great beyond.
Don't plan on quaffing a latte at a Spring Grove Starbucks or hearing voices of the dearly departed at the cemetery any time soon.
"That's more of a California thing," said Spring Grove president Andrew Conroy III.
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