VANDALIA - It's been said that,
when he had time for a good meal, Abraham Lincoln could
be seen dining on a meal of fricasseed chicken,
scalloped oysters and election cake.
On Saturday though, it was all about pizza.
After a group photo was taken on the steps of the
historic Vandalia Statehouse, about 15 Abes, many with
Mary Todd Lincolns at their sides, enjoyed pizza, salad
and breadsticks at Giuseppe's Pizza in downtown
"I would really like some lemonade," one Abe said to
"Sorry, we only have soda," she said. Abe agreed to a
The Abes and Mary Todds were part of a contingent of
about 60 members of the Association of Lincoln
Presenters, an organization that began in 1990 as a way
of connecting people who impersonate Lincoln for various
events. More than 100 Abes are members today.
Randy Duncan, 42, of Carlinville often was told
growing up that he resembled Lincoln. But he never
thought about being a Lincoln himself.
"Some friends were part of a festival and asked me if
I would dress up as a clown and pass out balloons. I
thought a 6-foot, 4-inch clown didn't make sense."
But soon after that event, Duncan saw a picture of a
group of Lincoln presenters from one of their annual
meetings in Springfield.
"I looked at myself in the mirror and covered up my
mustache with my finger, and thought, 'Hey, I look just
as good as they do.' And now I've been doing this for
Duncan has tried to learn as much about Lincoln as he
can. When you dress up like Abe, he says, you take on an
"Everyone knows Lincoln. Or at least there are some
preconceived notions about him. It's different from
dressing up as any other character."
Pete Raymond, 69, of Wooster, Ohio, a presenter for
four years, says he gets stares both in and out of
character. His license plate even reads "ITS ABE.""It's
a little eerie," he said. "I've traveled every place
Lincoln has traveled. You portray Lincoln and you get to
walk on floors that Lincoln walked on and see things
others don't get to see. That makes you appreciate the
part you are playing."
He especially enjoys presentations at schools.
"You can learn so much more from a presenter than
from a book. Here's someone from the 1800s telling you
this, and children are just in awe."
Saturday afternoon, the presenters were part of a
parade through downtown Vandalia - dozens of Abes and
Mary Todds, plus even one George Washington. Many had
their pictures taken afterwards with a life-sized
Lincoln statue across from the historical Vandalia
Statehouse, which served as the capitol of Illinois from
1836 to 1839. They then went to the Old State Cemetery,
where they were entertained by locals portraying famous
Phil Funkenbusch of Petersburg was on hand as a
cemetery walk spectator, even though he usually
organizes them through the Illinois Historic
Funkenbusch said he began his day at Lincoln's New
Salem State Historic Site near Petersburg, where he saw
busloads of people coming in to learn about Lincoln's
"What is it that intrigues us about the past?" he
said. "To see those at New Salem this morning, to seeing
all of these people in Vandalia, it just makes you
think. And to see these many Lincolns here in this
Raymond, however, thinks his presentations make young
people think the most.
"At every presentation, I give out pennies. I tell
students when they get in a situation where they think
they can't do something, to pull out their penny and
look at Abe's profile and to remember just this one
thing: If Abe could do it, I can do it."
But perhaps a little girl who saw Raymond at a school
presentation is the biggest reason he dons the top hat
and black suit. Later, she saw Raymond in public and
pointed him out to her grandmother.
"See, Grandma," the girl said, "I told you he was
Brenda Protz can be reached through the metro desk at