Organizers promise visitors there won’t be any tear-inducing obsequies or gloomy dirges at Aug. 13’s Eighth Annual Hearse and Professional Vehicle Show in Philadelphia’s historic Laurel Hill Cemetery.

The yearly display — set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine — is sponsored by Mohnton (PA) Professional Car Club (and is officially known as the MPCC Procar Show) and also features ambulances, flower cars, limousines and assorted service vehicles. Among the eclectic rides in this year’s line-up, FYNLRYD — a modified Pontiac Superior believed to be one of only two known “street rod hearses” on the East Coast. Musicians with the From Dawn till Death and Somebody’s Circus rock bands will perform, and organizers are calling the gathering “a car show unlike any other.”

Which, they swear, isn’t code for a morticians’ convention …

In fact, the free event is open to the public, and spokesmen say it’s been a big hit across demographic lines, even with viewers who don’t know a landau bow from a skid bar.

“The show actually seems to appeal to an interesting mix of people,” says Emma Stern, director of programs at Laurel Hill. “There are some people who come every year, but we also get people who are just strolling through the cemetery, enjoying the beautiful surroundings. So there really is quite a range. And the vehicles are beautiful.”

According to the history books, they are also considerably more elaborate than the wheeled gurneys that transported our ancestors on their trek to the hereafter.

Apparently, the word “hearse” derives from the 13th century term for either a type of plow or the candelabra that traditionally topped coffins. Early on, the latter were hand-carried to the deceased’s final resting place on primitive wooden pallets called biers. These were similar to the wheeled, aluminum “church trucks” currently used to move caskets between funeral home and hearse. Biers were largely replaced by simple horse-drawn wagons during the 17th century and, eventually, by ornate carriages with intricate carvings and distinctive velvet drapings. By the end of the 19th century, a few cities — notably Chicago — had even added special funeral trolleys to transport bodies and mourners to cemeteries that were farther afield.

Motorized hearses began appearing during the early 20th century, and their numbers increased steadily until factories were pressed into defense-related production during World War II. Three decades later, this country’s gasoline crisis led to the manufacture of smaller funeral cars, but, in general, maintained the distinctive limo-like lines of what most of us think of as contemporary hearses.

MPCC’s Shawn Koenig says the club’s Laurel Hill shows “average” 20 to 30 vehicles.

“At least that many is expected this year ... possibly more,” he adds.

Pinpointing the range of vehicles is more difficult.

“You never know,” Koenig says. “The oldest we ever had was a 1947, and, so far, the newest has been a 1997.”

Predicting a style range is even “trickier,” because participants are permitted to register throughout the event.

“But we suggest they come as early as possible to enjoy as much of the day as possible,” Koenig says.

Spokesman Stern notes 180-year-old Laurel Hill Cemetery — designated a National Historic Landmark in 1998 — was the second “rural” or “garden” cemetery in the United States, essentially park-like tracts created as alternatives to overcrowded church graveyards.

The driving force behind the now 78-acre spread was John Jay Smith, who founded Laurel Hill Cemetery with partners Nathan Dunn, Benjamin W. Richards and Frederick Brown in 1836. West Laurel Hill Cemetery in nearby Bala Cynwyd, was incorporated as a sister-property in 1869.

“Key concepts to Laurel Hill’s founding were that it had to be situated in a picturesque location well outside the city; that it had no religious affiliation; and that it provided a permanent burial space for the dead in a restful and tranquil setting,” the cemetery’s “History” notes.

Over the years, 40 Civil War generals, six Titanic passengers and a host of locals — Philadelphia icons and regular folks alike — have been interred at Laurel Hill. The cemetery has also served as a setting in movies as diverse as “Rocky Balboa” (2006), sister-flick “Creed” (2016), and “Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen” (2009). These days, the sprawling green space overlooking the Schuylkill hosts year-round programs and tours that range from a meet-and-discuss group called the Boneyard Bookworms to yoga sessions, photography strolls, cinema nights and history talks. Sept. 16, 17, 23 and 24, for example, New York’s REV Theatre Company will sing and talk their way through “Death is a Cabaret Ol’ Chum” as part of 2016’s Philly Fringe Festival. The fun starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $25.

“We’re trying to get the public to change its opinion of cemeteries,” Stern says. “In the old days, cemeteries were seen as public parks … not just cemeteries. People used to visit Laurel Hill and, actually, all Victorian cemeteries on family outings — for picnics or just to spend time together in a beautiful outdoor setting. Here at Laurel Hill, the programs we sponsor are for the people who are buried here. We put any money we raise with any of these programs directly back into keeping the cemetery looking beautiful. Our big fundraiser is our annual Gravediggers’ Ball.”

This year’s Ball is scheduled for Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. Additional information and a complete listing of all Laurel Hill Cemetery programs — including the Aug. 13 Annual Hearse and Professional Vehicle Show — are available at thelaurelhillcemetery.org or 215-228-8200.

Visitors to the car show can enter through Laurel Hill’s Gatehouse at 3822 Ridge Ave. Free parking is located in a lot opposite the gatehouse. More details about the car show are also posted at MPCC’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/mohntonprocars.

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