Photos, story by Sharon Kozden
I couldn’t be at Stonehenge in England for Summer Solstice 2017. I could, however, celebrate in Druidical-style, spending several hours during a perfect summer evening on Saturday, June 24 at Laurel Hill Cemetery.
The fundraiser, labeled a “Soulstice,” was presented by their Young Friends group, the “Antemortem Society” and was staged in the cemetery’s oldest section, the Medallion Garden.
Surrounded by headstones, vaults and crypts at sunset, the atmosphere became predictably and preternaturally mystical. I could not have chosen a better venue for my Stonehenge-desired experience. The Young Friends group certainly knows how to throw a party!
Pathways were lined with miniature candles, luring party-goers to a plentiful and spacious placement of oval tables from which guests could enjoy hors d’oeuvres and specialty cocktails such as the “Vansant” (Tito’s Vodka, Cranberry Mango Juice and Seltzer) or the “Lillie Thomas Keim” (Bluecoat Gin, lemon juice and honey) from Philadelphia Distilling and beer from Yards Brewing Co. Red and white wines were staples.
Fittingly, the cocktail picks were speared with gummy body parts. Since I’m passionate about neuroscience, I requested a gummy brain. What fun! The tempting eats included a cheese tray, crudités, cold cuts, salsa and tortilla chips, a gorgeous pasta salad, fruit trays and my favorite, pepper poppers and more. The outdoor buffet spread was tasty, varied and well-presented.
Musical entertainment was provided by the seven-piece Balkan brass band, West Philadelphia Orchestra.
As if all so far described wasn’t enough, I watched attendees playing ring toss on liquor bottles. Some guests even brought blankets and picnic baskets. Twilight tours of the cemetery’s grounds were offered. Fire pits appeared on the scene and were later lighted. I couldn’t imagine why, when it was summertime however, those Young Friends continued their effortless and charming hosting with the ultimate sweet surprise. Returning to the central food station, I noticed the sumptuous foodstuffs had been replaced by Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars, graham crackers and readers can determine the third ingredient. Back at base (fire) camps, we delighted in toasting marshmallows, creating the summer dessert that it’s just not summer without: S’mores!
It’s doubtful I’ll be in Stonehenge for Summer Solstice 2018, although I can surmise where I will be parking my chair, blanket and self. All funds raised from the event support the preservation of Laurel Hill Cemetery, a National Historic Landmark. Since its founding in 1836, Laurel Hill Cemetery has been a place for the living as well as for the dead. Its 78-acres provide green space for the surrounding community and a place of respite and recreation for the citizens of Philadelphia.
Check out the other amazing and awesome events the cemetery offers!