Tickets will go on sale at 9 a.m. Sept. 28 for the Finney County Historical Society’s 2020 Walking Tours of Valley View Cemetery in Garden City.
Scheduled at 6 and 8 p.m. Oct. 8, 9 and 10, the seventh annual tour series offers a trove of historical information, as well as the chance to meet a few figures from the community’s 141-year past.
Established in 1883, the cemetery includes nearly 14,000 graves and serves as the final resting place for many of the community’s founders, early leaders and citizens. The tours are hosted in partnership by the cemetery and the FCHS. They’re sponsored by Price and Sons Funeral Home. Each will be led by Johnetta Hebrlee, Finney County Museum education coordinator.
Tickets are $15 per person, with cash or checks accepted. They will be sold in advance only and not at the site. Sales will be open seven days weekly at the museum, 403 S. Fourth Street in Finnup Park, while they last. Exhibit hours there are 1-5 p.m. seven days weekly, via the front entrance; with offices open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, via the north door.
The tours are geared for adults, and each group is limited in size to enhance the experience and promote COVID safety. Face masks are welcome but not required. Tickets are sold first come-first served and have quickly sold out each previous year. Once all are taken, the museum staff will begin a waiting list in case any purchased tickets are turned back.
Each tour will run approximately 90 minutes, including stops at 10 to 12 gravesites and memorials, though the route changes annually. Volunteer re-enactors will emerge at certain points to portray figures from the 19th and early 20th Centuries.
Ticket holders should gather at the cemetery office. Parking will be available east of the office, inside the cemetery off of north Third Street. Those who attend are welcome to bring flashlights, and should be dressed and prepared for a vigorous walk.
While they’re taking place in October, the tours have nothing to do with ghosts or goblins. The emphasis is on history, not Halloween.
“There are a lot of stories to tell about the people who have made Finney County what it is today,” the guide said. “You might not realize it, but a visit to the cemetery is a unique way to discover some of those stories.” Established 137 years ago, the cemetery has been operated by the city since 1940. While not the first or only site for graves in Finney County, it is the largest, covering 40 acres with 40 more in reserve.
“We wouldn’t be able to do this without our sponsor’s support and the help of the cemetery staff,” said FCHS Executive Director Steve Quakenbush. The tour series is taking place not only as a fund-raising endeavor, but as a way to carry out the society’s mission of preserving the past to enlighten the future.
While some indoor museum events won’t take place this year due to COVID concerns, such as an annual picnic and a holiday open house, the tours are continuing because they’re conducted outdoors and each group is limited in size.