The Men's Club (SMC) wanted to do something special to help observe our town's 250th anniversary. We resurrected an old event that gives us maximum flexibility and has lots of charm. We decided to hold a Chautauqua.
The Chautauqua was an outdoor, cultural, educational phenomenon that originated with an event late in the 19th century at a popular lake in up-state New York. It enjoyed immediate popularity and quickly became a wide-spread, uniquely American institution lasting up into the 1920s. It covered a wide range of activities and was sustained as an annual outing in communities across the nation. Much like a county fair with an intellectual-entertainment focus, it featured lectures and debates on a variety of subjects, musical and dramatic performances and other forms of amusement. I recall first hearing about it in junior high literature classes in the 1950s.
We think a Chautauqua would provide a perfect format for a Shepherdstown250 event at Morgan's Grove where we have the outdoor setting and a long tradition of country fairs, public speeches and gatherings. Our concept is to have multiple "tracks" over the 2012 Labor Day weekend to include lectures (historic and topical) and debates (a la Lincoln-Douglas), musical concerts and performances, talent shows, art exhibits, arts and craft shows, demonstrations (re-enactors) food vendors, etc. The plan is to enlist active planning and participation of area organizations that want to do something but may lack the physical facilities to do so. The annual Labor Day picnic and pot luck social with political speaker and the traditional Rohrersville Band concert will provide, we hope, a good foundation to build upon.
If you or your organization would like to share in this adventure, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.