'Where our town came from': Dining with the Dead keeps history alive
FARMINGTON — Tony DiGiacomo leaned against a tree while waiting for the next group of fifth graders to arrive and hear his story about Ike Stockton, an outlaw and cattle rustler from the late 1800s who lived in Colorado and New Mexico.
DiGiacomo knows Stockton's history by heart after seven years of depicting the man for Dining with the Dead, a fundraiser for the Rio del Sol Kiwanis Club.
"Everyone likes the outlaw," DiGiacomo said.
Wearing costumes that reflect style from the 1870s and beyond, the reenactors shared information about local historical figures and pioneers during the dress rehearsal on Aug. 30 at Greenlawn Cemetery in Farmington.
Dining with the Dead, now in its seventh year, will take place at the cemetery on Sept. 7. Tickets are sold out. Proceeds benefit the club's projects for children.
For the rehearsal, the actors and actresses performed for fifth graders from McKinley and Mesa Verde Elementary Schools.
Jill McQueary, a coordinator for the event, said the stories are based on information from family members, the Farmington Museum and the San Juan Historical Society.
"Whatever the actors say, it's true. We've researched it. We write the scripts and they can change the scripts as long as they stay with the facts," McQueary said.
The process for selecting pioneers to profile starts in March with scripts ready by the end of May and rehearsals following, she said.
Albert Boognl stood with his daughter, Emily Boognl, and listened to the story of Lew and George Coe, cousins who were honest men but became vigilantes and caused problems in 1880 and in 1881.
When Boognl was asked what he hopes Emily learns from the depictions, he said, "the history that's in our area. Where our town came from and the people that were here to help build it."
Students from McKinley Elementary School listened to Judy Castleberry and D'Ann Waters depiction of Mary Elizabeth Blatchford and Mattie Walling, who participated in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union.
As the women stood next to the headstone of Samuel Blatchford, Mary's husband, they talked about the organization's work to prohibit the manufacturing and sale of alcohol in Aztec and in Farmington.
The effort included raising prices for liquor licenses and protesting a distillery that operated in Farmington.
Amy Dumas, a teacher at Mesa Verde, called the experience "wonderful."
"Hopefully they gain knowledge about New Mexico, about their hometown," she said about her students.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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