East Lake rallies around cemetery for spooky fundraiser
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By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor
Atlanta, GA — In Atlanta’s East Lake neighborhood, Fourth Avenue is a wide but quiet residential street. But this Halloween, the street will be overtaken by ghosts and goblins exploring the local graveyard.
East View Cemetery plans to host A Grave Affair on Oct. 31, a fundraiser for neighbors to enjoy ghost stories, a live band, food trucks, and a silent auction. Kids can get into crafts, pumpkin decorating, a costume contest, and socially distanced trick-or-treating. Wine is being provided by Wahoo Wine and Provisions, and beer is coming from Three Taverns Brewery. The festivities begin at 4 p.m.
East Lake Neighborhood Community Association planned the free event to bring awareness to the privately-owned cemetery, a property split by Fourth Avenue near the former East Lake Elementary School. East View’s board is aging and needs new volunteers and donations.
“They’re old, there’s no one coming behind them, they can hardly get people out here to work,” said Tracy Lehrer, president of ELNCA, whose father serves on the East View Cemetery board. “A lot of people think the cemetery is owned by the city, and it is not. A lot of people think it is supported by the city, and it is not.”
The cemetery is used all day, every day by the neighbors. Lehrer said she loves East Lake for the kind, diverse community and small-town feel.
The popularity of the cemetery is wonderful, Lehrer said, but it’s starting to become an issue because people leave trash or dog waste. The property is run by volunteers, who, until the pandemic, held clean-up days regularly.
“We want to raise awareness that this is private property that has to be maintained. We want to maintain it for the community to use, but we need some input and help from the community, too,” she said.
The city has never owned East View Cemetery, which was established in 1883. Buried there is golfer Steward Maiden, aka “Kiltie the Kingmaker,” who taught a host of local golfers:
– Alexa Stirling Fraser (dubbed “The First Lady of East Lake” and golf partner of Bobby Jones)
– Bobby Jones (founder of Augusta National Golf Course and co-founder of The Masters golf tournament)
– Perry Adair (member of the 1920 U.S. Olympic golf team)
– Watts Gunn (Georgia Tech’s first national collegiate champion in 1927)
– And Charlie Yates (for whom the local course is named)
Maiden’s gravesite will be in the spotlight said Saturday’s storyteller Alice Snipes, a regular cemetery volunteer whose grandparents are buried at East View. Her stories will be historical with a spooky flair, she said.
Lehrer said there are logistical challenges to an event like this, but she reads everything that comes out of the CDC and has made plans for one-way trick-or-treating.
“We are holding to every safety precaution that’s out there,” she said. “We are providing bowls, candy, hand sanitizer, everything they need to have a socially distanced spot.” Gloves and masks will also be on hand.
Safe Streets had two trick-or-treat locations in East Lake last year, but Lehrer still hopes families and kids come to A Grave Affair.
Lehrer’s father, Leroy Gardner, wrote a small book on the history of the property. Prior to 1995, the cemetery became overgrown and wild. The community was mobilized to clean it up by board president A.M. Alexander, who later died while leaving the cemetery after his near-daily volunteering.
Even though he spends a lot of time at the cemetery, Gardner said he believes in ghosts but hasn’t seen one at East View. Perhaps he will on Saturday night.
To learn more about the fundraiser, click here.
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