Halloween cemetery display pays tribute to 'Old Austin' and legendary businesses

It’s that time of year, when spooky Halloween displays start popping up on front lawns across Central Texas. In North Austin, one display in particular is garnering a lot of attention on social media, as it pays homage to Austin’s past.

"Halloween’s my jam," said Nancy Friedel, who has been decorating her North Austin front yard for Halloween for years. "I just like getting my tools out and creating something."

But this time around, she and her partner Ginger Bloomer decided to do something a little different—inspired by the change they saw around them.

"I was driving down Lamar," said Bloomer. "And someone had planted a little sign in the median that said 'R.I.P. Weird.'"

That got them thinking about all the bygone people and places that made Austin, weird.

"I mean it’s heartbreaking," said Friedel. "So we just thought it would be cool to bring back something that everybody could relate to."

So they got to work on what would become the Cemetery of Old Austin.

"It’s almost a Day of the Dead inspired memorial to those wonderful places that created the Austin vibe that we've lost now," said Bloomer.

The cemetery pays tribute to legendary businesses, like Liberty Lunch, Katz’s Deli, East Side Café, Maria’s Tacos, Armadillo World Headquarters and La Mexicana Bakery. Also recognized are Austin icons like Leslie Cochran, Ann Richards, Liz Carpenter, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Janis Joplin.

This graveyard of the good ol’ days has created quite the buzz on social media—including a thread on Reddit that’s gotten thousands of reactions in just a couple of days.

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"I’ve heard from people. They’re like ‘check this out’. And I’m like, ‘I had no idea’. But super cool, because it’s been positive," said Friedel.

Friedel says she wants passersby to get involved, too, by leaving their memories on a tree which is part of the display.

"We’ll have some wood little cards and Christmas tree hooks for people to write down their memories of places," said Friedel.

Friedel says she hopes visitors take away a renewed sense of community.  

"For people to talk to each other and interact with each other, and talk about things and make new memories, but remember the old stuff," said Friedel.

If you want to check out the Cemetery of Old Austin, it’s on West St. John’s Avenue just off Arroyo Seco. It’ll be up through Halloween, but don’t expect it to come back next year. Friedel says they’ll have a totally new display up in 2023.