ARCOLA — Johnny Gruelle, who created Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls at the turn of the last century, will return to Arcola with his wife, Myrtle, on Saturday.
At least in spirit.
Jim and Sheila Gustafson of Alton will portray the Gruelles on a walk through the cemetery as part of the Douglas County Community’s annual Raggedy Rally.
The Gruelle family was a creative group, one being a newspaper editor in Arcola, another a famous impressionist artist, and another singer, vaudeville performer, and cartoonist.
Trips to Arcola Township Cemetery Cemetery Parkway will depart from the Best Western parking lot at 2:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m.
John Barton Gruelle, born December 24, 1880 in Arcola, drew the black eyes, red triangle nose, and parted mouth on a rag doll his daughter, Marcella, found in her grandmother’s attic. The doll, which he called “Raggedy Ann”, was so popular with his daughter that he patented it in 1915.
The dolls and some of their friends came to life in stories that Gruelle told her daughter. He then wrote children’s books featuring the characters.
Gruelle was an illustrator for an Indianapolis tabloid, won a national comic book drawing contest, and went to work for the New York Herald. He drew the popular Sunday “Mr. Cartoon Twee Deedle.
Roberta Brennan, a member of the cemetery walking committee, said people were checking into hotels as early as Tuesday for the Raggedy event, which doesn’t start until Thursday.
There are avid fans of Raggedy Ann and Andy. Think “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” fans, Brennan said, though the passage of time may have dampened some of the Raggedy fandom’s zeal.
Thursday will include an early bird meeting where people can grab food and meet at the downtown Arcola Pavilion on Oak Street.
Friday events include a 2 p.m. nickel auction at the downtown pavilion and a 6 p.m. banquet at Yoder’s Kitchen in Arcola.
On Saturday, the Ragged Market will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Arcola Center.
This marks the first year of the Afternoon Cemetery Walk. The former Rockome Gardens train, now owned by Steve Kauffman, will provide trips to the cemetery from the Arcola Best Western. The ride is free, although donations are accepted.
Other members of the talented Gruelle family will be represented at the walk. One will be John Marshall Gruelle, former editor of the Arcola Record, played by Greg Saunders.
Mike Brennan and Linda Glenn will play Richard Buckner Gruelle, known as “RB”, and his wife, Alice.
“RB was very well known,” Brennan said. “He was part of the Hoosier group” – five well-known impressionist painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Brennan said RB first worked as a house painter before becoming well known as a landscaper. Some of his paintings are displayed in Indiana museums.
“He was a self-taught artist,” Brennan said.
Another member of the Gruelle family, Prudence Jeanette Gruelle Brown, will be played by Carolyn Cloyd. Brown was a singer, cartoonist and former vaudeville performer.
Issy Spracklen will play Marcella Delight Gruelle, daughter of Johnny and Myrtle Gruelle. It was for Marcella that her father made the first Raggedy Ann doll. She died at age 13.
The rally is sponsored by the Arcola Chamber of Commerce.