Meet the 'ghosts' of historic Iowa cemetery Sunday

Historical society hosts event at St. Mary's Newport Church near Solon

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SOLON — Organizers of an annual cemetery walk in Johnson County on Sunday promise it won’t be scary.

But there are going to be ghosts.

The Johnson County Historical Society hosts the cemetery walk from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Sunday in the cemetery at St. Mary’s Newport Church, 2683 Newport Road NE, south of Solon.

The event is free and features 30-minute walking tours of the cemetery that organizers say double as a history lesson of sorts with actors portraying former prominent or interesting residents from the area who are buried there.

“They’ll take (visitors) to each resident, if you will, and they’ll tell their story, kind of like a biography,” said Alexandra Drehman, executive director of the Johnson County Historical Society.

She said the identity of these “ghosts” is a surprise.

Johnson County Historical Society officials are seeking volunteers to be actors, greeters and guides. Anyone interested in volunteering should call (319) 351-5738.

Sunday’s tour also aims to inform area residents about a major renovation project at St. Mary’s Newport Church, built in 1876 in the former village of Newport. The church’s cemetery was selected for this year’s tour — which changes venues each year — to draw attention to a $50,000 fundraising campaign the church has launched for structural renovations, including improvements to the roof.

“We thought it would be a great partnership to help them attain their goals while continuing the tradition of the event,” Drehman said.

Members of the church are hosting a bake sale during the event with proceeds to benefit the renovation project. Those who are interested in donating additional funds can do so through the church’s GoFundMe page. To date, more than $17,000 has been donated by 167 donors.

Drehman said the annual cemetery tour typically draws at least a couple hundred people.

“It’s a popular event because you’re not only learning about the residents of the cemetery, but you’re also learning about the cemetery and the location,” she said. “It’s a great way to learn the history of the town, and it’s a neat way to tell that history.”

If you go

— What: Johnson County Historical Society’s annual Cemetery Walk

— Where: St. Mary’s Newport Church, 2683 Newport Road NE, Solon

— When: 5:30 to 8 p.m. Sunday

— Cost: Free

— To volunteer: Call (319) 351-5738

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