July 4th Celebration At Historic Riverside Cemetery Stirs Controversy

RIVERSIDE (CBSLA.com) — A July 4th celebration held at a historic cemetery in the middle of downtown Riverside has divided some residents.

Saturday night, a few thousand people will sprawl out on the lawn at Evergreen Cemetery to watch fire works on Mt. Rubidoux.

Mike Turnbull and his wife Sami call the event disrespectful.

“It’s not somewhere that you party or you drink or you lay against a tombstone or you  celebrate on,” Turnbull said.

Event organizers argue the event is a great way to remember the veterans buried in the area.

“We have 125 Civil War veterans buried in this cemetery,” organizer Ron Richmond said. “When we come here and sit on the grass and we watch the fireworks we are honoring them as well as honoring our nation at the same time.”

The Turnbulls fear event goers could damage historic headstones.

“Even outside of vandalism, just by accident just knocking them over. Damage could be done or people could be hurt,” Turnbull said.

“In the last six years we have not have any stone get knocked over,” Richmond counters.

There are also concerns about money. The cemetery charges an entrance fee to the fireworks show. But members of the non-profit that runs the cemetary say the money is used to maintain the property.

“It’s almost $250 a day to maintain a water, gardening, maintain and repair the headstones. It is absolutely the mission and goal of this event to make sure the area is taken of the best that we can,” said event coordinator Sandra Ramirez.

Critics would like to see this event held next year at a local park.

Gates open at 5 p.m. Saturday, with tickets costing $3 to $5.

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