The end of the Chautauqua season is in the air. The cool nights. The sound of crickets. The anticipation of pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks.
And giants in the Heritage Lecture Series.
So it will be at 3:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy when Chautauquans come together to remember and celebrate “Five More Giants of Chautauqua.”
This year’s giants: Caroline Bissell, Bill Flanders, Addie Mae Smith Wilkes, O.W. Norton and Jim Roselle.
Jon Schmitz, Chautauqua’s archivist and historian, began this event eight years ago at the request of President Tom Becker, and it continues to be both important and popular. Schmitz asked five Chautauquans to each pick a Chautauquan, “living or dead, famous or unknown, people they knew or had never met.”
The chooser would then say a few words about the chosen — words that would convey an idea of the person’s special contribution to Chautauqua.
For some giants, words are almost unnecessary. Roselle, for example: the venerable voice of Chautauqua and interviewer par excellence. Roselle has been interviewing Chautauqua speakers and visitors for 40 years, and his voice on radio station WJTN transmits Chautauqua Institution’s daily pulse to greater Chautauqua County. Mark Russell will present the giant Roselle.
Chautauquans Bissell and Flanders will each, in their turn, present their giant other. Bissell, a lifelong Chautauquan, is also a local bat expert and has regularly led Bat Chats during the season to educate children and adults about the flying mammals. Flanders is, too, a lifelong Chautauquan.
An avid historian, especially of Chautauqua Institution and County, Flanders has co-authored a book with Jon Schmitz for Arcadia Publishing’s Postcard History Series, titled Chautauqua Institution. Schmitz said that Flanders knows Chautauqua better than anyone.
Marlie Bendiksen, research assistant at the Oliver Archives Center, will present the giant Smith Wilkes. Bendiksen said that Smith Wilkes was a generous woman whose benevolence contributed to two buildings on the grounds, Smith Library and Smith Wilkes Hall.
“She was a nature person,” Bendiksen said, and enjoyed traveling, keeping close documentation of her travels in extensive journals.
And this is the summer of Norton, whose life and writings contributed to the opera, Norton, the subject of an earlier Heritage Lecture. A Civil War soldier, he was the first bugler to play “Taps.” He was a fine writer and extraordinary man, a proposition supported in the many letters he wrote during his life documenting the rigors of war life, not only to soldiers but to the many other people swept up in its wake. Sherman, New York, resident and avid O.W. Norton champion Jennifer TeWinkle will celebrate this Chautauqua giant.