FES, Pender family tradition honors Merkley

ADAM BIRKAN | File Photo
The Pender section prepares to watch a 2012 Family Entertainment Series performance in the Amphitheater

Kathy and Jim Pender and the Michael Pender Fund of the Cleveland Foundation are sponsoring tonight’s Family Entertainment Series, Aga-Boom, at 7:30 p.m. in the Amphitheater.

With this year’s sponsorship, the Penders chose to honor Marty Merkley in his last season as vice president and director of programming. He is retiring after 25 seasons of service to the Institution.

The Penders said they look forward recognizing Merkley for his dedication to Chautauqua’s families, as he always found the best FES shows and performances, which could be enjoyed for audience members of all ages.

Having come to Chautauqua for nearly 50 years, the Penders said they enjoy bringing many family members and friends to the FES and filling several rows in the Amp.

Kathy and Jim Pender, longtime supporters of this series, said it has been a family adventure for them. This year there will be a special twist.

This evening is one of three FES performances this season that the Penders are underwriting.

The fun continues on July 21 with Golden Dragon Acrobats and Aug. 11 when Bronker & Aaron present “Collision of Rhythm.”

The Penders’ late son, Michael, has been a constant inspiration for the Penders and the driving motivation for their sponsorship of the series.

Michael, who passed away at 19, loved theater and entertainment.

His parents remember Michael as courageous and quick-witted, having lived every day to the fullest with a good sense of humor.

“When one has a negative experience, they reach a point where they have to have a positive reason to have faith and address the situation positively,” Jim Pender said.

His memory inspired the Penders to share that love of the performing arts and entertainment with families at Chautauqua as well as in their hometown of Cleveland.

“We feel that if there’s a way we can bring the outside community as well as the community of Chautauqua together for the entertainment that is offered here,” Kathy Pender said. “That’s a special thing for us and also Michael.”