A walk through history
The Oakland Cemetery Walk will feature some veteran actors portraying the dead from Fort Dodge’s past, and some new actors, haunting the rows of peaceful markers for the first time.
The Rev. Jim Laupp, pastor of First Baptist Church in Fort Dodge, has been assigned a character that at least professionally, is close to his own life experience – the Rev. James Dolliver, who lived from 1816 to 1905.
While this means he’s no stranger to getting up in front of an audience, he is relatively new to acting. His first role was in the recent Hawkeye Theatre production of “A Few Good Men.”
“Which is how I got roped into doing this,” he joked.
Laupp is looking forward to the experience, he said. His family is very active in the theater.
“I was the only one that hadn’t been,” he said. “I get to experience what they experience.”
It’s also a way for Laupp to learn more about the history of Fort Dodge.
“This is another way to to become familiar in depth with an individual,” he said. “People make a community what it is. Understanding the roots is important.”
Another new ghost to this year’s haunting is Adam Liker. He portrays David Fessler, who lived from 1830 to 1896.
“He opened the first opera house in Fort Dodge, and he also opened the first clothing store,” Liker said.
All of the volunteer actors who portray historic individuals in the Cemetery Walk are given a packet with information on their subject. This can include their obituary, book and newspaper citations and copies of old photographs. From the information given, each participant then writes an own outline or script for his or her performance.
While some choose to do a script, Liker is opting for an outline that he will follow.
Liker said he was excited to learn about some Fort Dodge history, he’s been a teacher at St. Edmond for two years.
“I’m really excited to be working with it,” he said. “It’s a lot more in depth, it’s pretty interesting.”
Steve Kersten, of Fort Dodge, will be haunting the cemetery for the fourth time this year. He’s portraying C.B. Smeltzer, who lived from 1870 to 1941.
“I’m 71 when I die,” Kersten said.
Kersten not only researches the person he’s portraying, he also looks into the events of the times and what was going on in Fort Dodge at the time his person actually lived.
“I imagine walking out my door at the (Ringland) Smeltzer House in the morning and looking around me,” Kersten said.
In the time his character was alive, Fort Dodge was a busy place.
“It’s amazing to me,” he said. “It was a beehive here – downtown was it.”
Kersten said he enjoys interacting with the people who take the tour and will sometimes ask them questions. He tries never to do exactly the same performance.
“It’s fun to vary each one,” he said.
Kersten will be sharing his cemetery plot with Susan Ahlers Leman, who will portray Jeannie Smeltzer.
Leman joined the ghostly troupe in 2007.
On Saturday, tours will run from 1 to 3 p.m. To join a tour at Oakland Cemetery, a shuttle service will pick up visitors at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1436 21st Ave. N. The cost is $7 per person. Children under 10 are admitted free.
There is a 2 p.m. performance on June 22 in the Bioscience and Health Sciences Building at Iowa Central Community College.
Proceeds from the Cemetery Walk go toward restoration and preservation at Oakland Cemetery.
Characters in the 2014 Oakland Cemetery Walk
Richard Welch, 1910-1994, owner of the Welch Shoe Co. Portrayed by Matt Drees.
George L Cruikshank, 1834-1914, businessman, farmer and postmaster of Dakota City. Served with the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry during the Civil War. Portrayed by Ben Ahlers.
David Fessler, 1830-1896, owned the first clothing store in Fort Dodge and opened the New Opera House. Portrayed by Adam Liker.
H. R. Bradshaw, 1845-1925, operated an early brick and tile works in Fort Dodge. Portrayed by John Metier.
The Rev. J. Dolliver, 1816-1905 Retired minister. Portrayed by the Rev. Jim Laupp.
Jeannie Ringland, 1873-1946, mother of Ann Smeltzer, last occupant of the historic Ringland Smeltzer House. Portrayed by Susan Ahlers Leman.
C.B. Smeltzer, 1870-1941, an early Fort Dodge banker and father of Ann Smeltzer. Portrayed by Steve Kersten.
Isaac Garmoe, 1827-1907, Margaret Garmoe, 1823-1912. He was a director of the Fort Dodge Savings Bank and a treasurer of Webster County. Portrayed by Jesse and Susan Helling.
Frank W. Paige, 1853-1932, botanist who was one of Iowa’s leading experts on mushrooms. Portrayed by Brad McIntyre.