Chautauqua-Opoly hits the Bookstore


Chautauqua Bookstore’s new Chautauqua-Opoly is the result of weeks of work by employees Carolyn Snider and Donna Dominick. Photo by Demetrius Freeman.

Elora Tocci | Staff Writer

Creators of Chautauqua-Opoly poses for a portrait.

The Chautauqua Boys’ and Girls’ Club is on sale for $180. But if you want it, you’ll have to try to buy it before the person who rolls the dice before you do snatches it up.

Bookstore employees Donna Dominick and Carolyn Snider teamed up to create Chautauqua-Opoly, a Chautauqua-themed board game for which the bookstore will begin taking orders this week. The game challenges players to buy more property and collect more paper money than their opponents — all in the setting of the Institution.

Dominick said she had seen “-opoly” games at other vacation resorts and brought up the possibility of a Chautauqua game to bookstore manager Earl Rothfus. He loved the idea, and this past spring, Dominick researched companies that make such games and gathered information about the creation process.

But the game got pushed to the back burner in favor of preparations that needed to be made for the coming season. So at a staff meeting during which it appeared there would not be enough time or energy to put into creating the game, Dominick and Snider looked at each other and said, “We’ll do it.”

So they set to work, taking three weeks to plan out the details of the game. When they weren’t sure about the wording of a property card or which properties to place on the board, they consulted with the other bookstore employees. They carefully debated what to put on the front of the box (they went with an image of the Miller Bell Tower behind boats on the lake), what image to use on the actual board (they chose a photo they thought captured the spirit of the Institution — one of Chautauquans listening to the Community Band on Bestor Plaza in front of Smith Memorial Library), and what they should use as game pieces (a mini bell tower, tennis racket, music note, golf cart, sailboat and book won out).

They swapped familiar staples like jail for the lake and granted the coveted $200 prize for passing Go to players who pass through the Main Gate. They then filled the board with Chautauquan properties, including the College Club, Smith Memorial Library and Chautauqua Theater Company.

“Our biggest fear was excluding an important place or event on the grounds,” Dominick said.

The Chautauqua locations that didn’t make it onto the available property list are included on the specialty game cards, the Chautauqua Fund and Opportunity cards. With these cards, players can win the Club Air Band contest and proceed to the Lost & Found, where less fortunate players have to leave some of their money or drop their Refectory ice cream cones and collect $5 from each player. The cash comes decorated with images of the Miller Bell Tower and the letters “CHQ” printed in the corners.

Snider said she and Dominick wanted to use the game to help children and people who are new to Chautauqua learn about the Institution, so each property card players get when they purchase land has a description of the actual place on the back.

“The cards give a lot of details, so the game is great for people who are visiting for the first time or want to learn more about Chautauqua,” Snider said.

Dominick has been working at the bookstore for 21 years and is a native of Jamestown, N.Y. Snider, a native of Springville, N.Y., has been employed at the bookstore for four years. Both women said they had fun putting the game together and are excited to see Chautauquans’ reaction to it.

“Each time we opened an email notifying us that another phase was complete was like Christmas,” Dominick said.

She and Snider coordinated with each other throughout the entire project, making lists and checking them with each other and using their combined knowledge of Chautauqua to make sure the game was as inclusive and relevant as possible.

“We worked well together and had a lot of fun,” Snider said. “We probably had as much fun putting the game together as we will playing it.”

The games will not be delivered until mid-September, but a sample display is set up in the Bookstore. Interested Chautauqua-opolians can place orders at the Bookstore, which will ship the games when they come in. The game will sell for $34.95.