Cemetery talks planned for Oct. 28 to conclude Russellville’s fall fest

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published October 15, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: William Harvey

Participating in cemetery talks Oct. 28 at the Russellville Oakland Cemetery will be Stephanie Warwick, from left, cemetery director; Jeannie Stone, executive director of Traveling Arts Fiesta; Hunter Crissup, portraying Dr. Henry Blackwell Wiggs; and Charity Jewell, portraying Elizabeth Aspinwall “Bess” Wiggs. Bess Wiggs wrote a six-stanza Victorian poem after the death of her young son, Henry, who is also buried in the cemetery. Jewell will read part of the poem during the cemetery talks.

RUSSELLVILLE — The community is invited to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos — Day of the Dead — a little early this year.

According to mexonline.com, the festival celebrating the reunion of dead relatives with their families is traditionally held Nov. 1 and 2. However, this year, Traveling Arts Fiesta and the staff and board of commissioners of the Russellville Oakland Cemetery will celebrate on Oct. 28 with the annual Dia de Los Muertos Parade and Cemetery Talks. These events will conclude Mainstreet Russellville’s Downtown Fall Festival and Chili Cook-off, which begins at 7 a.m. that day.

Jeannie Stone, executive director of the Traveling Arts Fiesta nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing cultures together through the arts, said people are invited to meet at the downtown depot stage at 4:45 p.m. The Chinelos Morelenses Unidos En Arkansas dancers will lead the parade to the historic Oakland Cemetery on East Eighth Street under police escort.

Those who do not wish to travel with the parade are encouraged to meet the parade at the cemetery, where the cemetery matron, portrayed by Stephanie Warwick, director of the Russellville

Oakland Cemetery, will greet revelers for a tour of the oldest parts of the cemetery.

Re-enactors will discuss some of the lives of those who are buried in the cemetery. Architectural features of the tombstones and other structures will also be highlighted on the tour.

Among the deceased to be highlighted are the following:

• Dr. Henry Blackwell Wiggs and his wife, Elizabeth Aspinwall “Bess” Craig Wiggs, whose 2-year-old son is also buried in the cemetery.

• Joel “Joe” Callaway and Edward Brown Rogers, both were semiprofessional baseball players with the Texas League. Five baseball players from the Texas League are buried at Oakland Cemetery.

• Civil War solider William Henry Harrison Love, who served for both the Union and the Confederacy.

• Judge Andrew Horatio Scott, one of the first Supreme Court justices of the Arkansas Territory, who was known for dueling. He carried a sword within a walking cane.

Warwick said many other notables are buried at the cemetery, including 21 mayors of Russellville; Thomas Russell, for whom the city of Russellville is named; William Cary Renfrow, Civil War veteran and governor of the Oklahoma

Territory; and Brooks Hays, former Arkansas attorney general, U.S. congressman and undersecretary of state for Congressional Affairs and special assistant to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Prior to the parade, the Traveling Arts Fiesta will sponsor several activities at the Downtown Fall Festival. These activities include music by native Puerto Rican Al Lopez of Springdale, better known as “Papa Rap”; a mariachi band from Arkansas Tech University; mural making; and an art show by Latinx artists.

Volunteers and re-enactors may still be needed for the cemetery talks. For more information, contact Warwick at (479) 857-4074 or Stone at (479) 747-0210, or traveling artsfiesta@gmail.com, or visit the Traveling Arts Fiesta Facebook page.

Sponsored by Main Street Russellville, the downtown fall festival will be held from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 28 and feature a number of vendors, booths, exhibits, contests and live music.

Activities will begin at 7 a.m. with a pancake breakfast presented by the Knights of Columbus until 11. A variety of vendors will offer food throughout the day. A pie and cake contest and a chili cook-off are also planned.

Entries for the pie and cake contest, which will benefit Main Street Russellville and the Atkins school band, will be accepted from 8-9:30 a.m. Judging will begin at noon, and prizes will be awarded. Slices of pie and cake will be sold for $1 each beginning at noon. Sample platters will be sold for $6 each, consisting of 10 desserts of your choice.

The entry fee for the chili cook-off is $25. Teams will begin setting up at 6 a.m. Registration will be held from 8-9. Showmanship judging will be from 10-11, when tasting kits will go on sale. Awards will be presented at 1 p.m.

Other activities at the fall fest include the Tour de Pumpkin bike ride, which begins at 8 at the depot and includes three routes. The entry fee is $35 and includes a T-shirt, if the registration is received by Monday. Registrations will be taken up to and on the day of the ride. Contact Craig Witcher at (479) 276-2345 or


The Junior Auxiliary of Russellville Inc. will sponsor a children’s costume contest for children from infants to age 12 onstage at Depot Park. Registration will be from 9:30-10:30 a.m., followed by the contest at 11.

A K9 Capers Dog Show is planned on the vacant lot at the corner of Commerce and B streets. Registration will begin at noon, followed by a grand parade at 1:45 p.m. and the contest at 2. Categories for children ages 1 to 15 and adults ages 16 and older will include best costume, highest jump and best talent.

Trique Manufacturing will sponsor a car and truck show open to all makes, models and years. The top six vehicles will be chosen for the awards. Preregistration is $15 and ends Oct. 25. After Oct. 25, registration will be $20. For more information, call (479) 967-3366 and ask for Chris.

For more information on the Mainstreet Downtown Fall Festival and Chili Cook-off, including entry forms, visit mainstreetrussellville.com or call (479) 967-1437. Information is also available on Facebook.