CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Life is a Cabaret old chum, come to the Cabaret!
Cabaret Night is coming to downtown Clarksburg this weekend, raising funds for the Historic Clarksburg Cemetery Preservation Alliance.
The Preservation Alliance first began as a volunteer effort in 2011, when a group of individuals came together to take care of the former Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) Cemetery on Chestnut Street in Clarksburg.
“Before we even really knew most of the history involved with the individuals buried there, the primary aspect was paying respect and restoring dignity to the numerous folks that were buried there in conditions that were basically neglected and abandoned,” the organization’s Executive Director Shawn Jedju said.
The former IOOF cemetery is the final resting place for dozens of Civil War veterans, we well as notable Clarksburg citizens such as John Carlile and Nathan Goff.
For Jedju, giving these individuals respect in their afterlife was of utmost importance, traced back to an experience he remembers as an elementary school student growing up outside of Philadelphia.
“One of our elementary school field trips was to the national cemetery up there to pay our respects to the founding fathers, and one of those was Benjamin Franklin. That just stuck with me,” he said. “These people came before you, whatever their stories may have been, they were people, they’re remains, and you just want to pay that forward and never let them be forgotten.”
To help those memories live on, the Historic Clarksburg Cemetery Preservation Alliance works on restoration projects in various cemeteries throughout the region, from basic mowing and lawn maintenance to headstone cleaning and minor resetting.
In fact, Jedju, said the Alliance has a close working relationship with the Harrison County Historical Society, putting on workshops about how to clean headstones and how to do minor resetting.
“We also have been trying to notorize our headstones,” he said. “We take pictures and try to research them a little bit and put them out on social media just to keep their name going forward.”
They’re also planning to do another Wreaths Across America ceremony this year.
“We did our first one last year for three cemeteries — the Jackson, the Daniel Davidson and the former Odd Fellows cemetery,” Jedju said. “This year we’re probably going to be having at least one other, possibly two other cemetery locations that we’re currently working toward.”
However, doing all of these things takes money, which is why Jedju turned to Eric Spelsberg of the West Virginia Jazz Society for ideas for ways to draw people downtown.
“I said well maybe you could use the jazz stroll model, but lets not use all jazz,” Spelsberg said. “Let’s think about a cabaret, you know, different kinds of entertainment, acts and shows where people will come and perhaps spend the evening because the artists will engage a little bit more than they do at the jazz strolls. We were very interested in establishing the cabaret culture in downtown Clarksburg because we see that as extremely supportive of the Robinson Grand.”
By building a large entertainment base downtown, Spelsberg said, it helps business overall because crowds need places to eat before a show or somewhere to go after a show.
“If we could get a number of cabaret-style places rolling down there and people used to coming uptown to enjoy themselves like that, all the better,” he said. “It draws the people in obviously.”
Friday’s event requires a $10 admission bracelet that will get you into all venues that are a part of Cabaret Night in Clarksburg.
“We are lucky, lucky, lucky in this area that I was able to go to Dominion Energy, the Barbara Highland Fund, the city of Clarksburg, who are all supportive, so that we can cover the cost of the artist,” Spelsberg said. “That way the admission money all goes to Shawn and the historic cemetery.”
Cabaret Night will begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday, featuring various shows at three of downtown Clarksburg’s biggest venues — Kelly’s Irish Pub, the 5th Floor Lounge and Washington Square.
For more information, visit www.hcwvcpa.org