Spirit Walkers Enjoy Theatre on the Streets of Guelph
Unseasonably cool weather didn’t stop over seventy people from taking part in Guelph Museum’s Spirit Walk this past Saturday. All three walking tours sold out, as participants bundled up to explore Guelph’s storied past.
Participants were treated to virtuoso performances by local actors playing the parts of Guelph’s most fascinating historical figures. This year, the tour featured the spirits of William Bell, owner of The Bell Organ and Piano Company, Maud Stevenson, a talented soprano once called “Guelph’s sweet voiced singer,” and Fanny Colwill Salvert, a Guelph citizen with a scandalous love life (she drew the evening’s biggest laughs).
One of this year’s most memorable moments was unexpected. As one walking tour stopped outside a historical Guelph home, the home’s current residents, who were in the midst of a dinner party, came out onto their porch, wine glasses in hand, to hear some of what our tour guide had to say. No doubt they’ll be buying tickets for next year’s walk!
The Spirit Walk has become a popular Guelph tradition. The first walk took place at the Woodlawn cemetery over 15 years ago. The event has since moved to the downtown neighbourhoods surrounding the Civic Museum. “Our job is to bring history to life and what better way than through events like this,” says Val Harrison, a Spirit Walk organizer and Supervisor of Visitor Experiences at Guelph Museums. “I think it makes you feel proud of our city.”
Each year the walk follows a different route and introduces participants to new spirits. The tours fill-up quickly, and many participants return year after year. “You learn all sorts of things you wouldn’t otherwise know.” says Kathleen Wall, a Spirit Walk organizer and Curatorial Coordinator at Guelph Museums. “There are lots of really fun and random facts that cause you to see the city in a new light.”
More than just an opportunity to learn, the walk is a unique theatrical experience. Many of this year’s actors have been involved in the Spirit Walk since its inception. “They have a lot of fun with it,” says Wall. “It’s very different from doing a play. We provide them with information about the historical person they’re portraying and they get to interpret it, write their own script, and create a character.”