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Learn local history at cemetery crawl

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The organizers of Winnipeg’s annual Paracon convention are putting together a cemetery crawl at Kildonan Presbyterian Cemetery Nov. 1 to teach attendees about local history.

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The organizers of Winnipeg’s annual Paracon convention are putting together a cemetery crawl at Kildonan Presbyterian Cemetery Nov. 1 to teach attendees about local history. Photo Store

The folks behind Winnipeg Paracon — an annual paranormal convention — are inviting you to a cemetery crawl.

Don’t worry, though, they’re not planning to wake the dead. They will, however, be bringing history to life.

Paracon organizers Sharon and Fonz Granger and Sandra Horyski, along with the Manitoba Living History Society, will guide a tour of the Kildonan Presbyterian Cemetery (201 John Black Ave.) on Fri., Nov. 1 at 8 p.m.

The graveyard is over 160 years old and is home to many of the city and province’s most influential historical figures, including many of the original Selkirk Settlers.

The Selkirk Settlement — established by Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk — came to Canada from Scotland in 1812 and took up residence along the Red River, creating the first European settlement in what would later become Manitoba.

"The Manitoba Living History Society will be in period attire, so will we, and we’re going to be doing reenactments of key moments from that time," says Horyski, 48.

The event is a fundraiser for Paracon 2014 (which is scheduled for next September), as well as the preservation of the Kildonan Presbyterian Church, which was constructed in 1852 and is in need of repair.

"It is a church, but more so it’s a building that should be recognized as part of Manitoba history and not to be looked upon as just a church," says Sharon Granger, 50. "It was built by hand by people who are a part of this province’s history."

Horyski is a direct descendant of Cuthbert Grant, a prominent Métis leader in the 19th century and Grant Avenue’s namesake.

She says finding out her ancestor was such an important figure in Manitoba’s history started her obsession with history. She hopes to do more fun educational events like the cemetery crawl in the future.  

"We all know history can be dry if you’re reading it in a book, so let’s get people to bring it to life, right before your eyes," Horyski says. "People have a tendency of retaining more if they’re part of it. That’s part of the cemetery crawl, you’re right there, seeing the actual graves and getting historical trivia."

Horyski, who speaks on Celtic druidism at Paracon, notes that the post-Halloween cemetery crawl falls on Samhain, a Gaelic festival that marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.

Appropriately, organizers ask that attendees bring a "Tin for the Bin" in support of Winnipeg Harvest.

"It’s fun, it’s history and you get to feed the hungry," Horyski says of the event.

Admission to the Kildonan Presbyterian Cemetery crawl is $10. In addition to bringing a donation for Winnipeg Harvest, organizers recommend bringing a flashlight, so as to not trip over any graves.

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