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Vintage Voices celebrates record-breaking year of keeping history alive

Pictured is the 2022 cast of Alton’s Vintage Voices. Front row: Zach Hardin (Colonel John Kuhn), Jake Tenberge and Debbie Maneke (Lyne Shackelford Metcalfe and Sarah Baker Metcalfe), Rev. Anton Lane (Rev. Austin Otey), Sean Williams (Henry Mayo), Ron Abraham (E.P. Wade). Middle row: Jeff Pruett (Marcellus H. Filley), Gail Drillinger (Alice Georgia), Claudia Herndon and John Meehan (Elizabeth Ellen Blake Smith and Dr. William H.C. Smith). Back row: Christy Schaper (Olga Polster-2nd weekend), Velva Parker (Sara Jane Woodson Newton Cohron), Diana Kay (Olga Polster-1st weekend). Photo courtesy Pete Basola Photography.


Vintage Voices had a record-breaking turnout in 2022, with 624 guests attending from as far away as Washington state and Ireland.  This total surpasses the record of 596 attendees set in 2021.

“We love sharing our local history,” said Committee Chair Jody Basola. “Vintage Voices has become a treasured October tradition. Having costumed actors portray historical characters and telling their story in the beautiful Alton Cemetery gives guests an opportunity to “meet them” and appreciate their contributions to our community.”

“While the mission is to keep local history alive, we are fortunate to be able to donate a portion of the ticket sales back to the community,” Basola added.  “Local organizations receiving donations this year are Alton Cemetery, Alton Community Service League, Alton-Godfrey Rotary Club, Alton Knights of Columbus, Boys and Girls Club of Alton, Crisis Food Center, Hayner Genealogy & Local History Library, Oasis Women’s Center, Overnight Warming Centers of Alton, Rotary Club of the Riverbend, The Salvation Army, and YWCA of Southwestern Illinois.”

In addition to sharing local history, Vintage Voices has a role in contributing to it. Two recent portrayals were the Newtons. Charles Newton (portrayed by Jared Hennings in 2021) was the first Black graduate of Alton High School. While researching Newton it was discovered that his wife, Sara Newton Cohron (portrayed by Velva Parker last year) had a distinguished career of her own.

“We knew that Professor Charles Newton’s grave was in the Alton Cemetery, but it was not until my staff and I began researching his life for Vintage Voices that we realized his wife, Sara Jane Woodson Newton Cohron, was buried with him,” said Lacy S. McDonald, Hayner Genealogy & Local History library manager. “Sadly, despite their significant achievements, there was nothing marking their graves.”

Vintage Voices and Hayner Public Library District worked with Gent Funeral Home, who generously donated a marker for Newton’s grave. While the marker was placed in the cemetery in September 2022, a dedication ceremony is planned for June 2023, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Newton’s graduation from Alton High School.  Details will be provided in local media and on the Vintage Voices Facebook page.

Vintage Voices returns each October on the first two Saturdays and Sundays and a non-walking performance is planned. Dates for 2023 are October 7, 8, 14, and 15.

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