This weekend, representatives will return to “Mother Chautauqua” for the Chautauqua Trail Convention Monday through Wednesday. Myra Peterson, Chautauqua Institution’s accommodations manager and Trail treasurer, will represent Chautauqua, New York.
In his book The Chautauqua Moment: Protestants, Progressives and the Culture of Modern Liberalism, the author Andrew C. Rieser includes a list of 101 Chautauquas founded from 1874 to 1899. The Chautauqua Trail members, many founded during those years, were influenced by the first Chautauqua, founded in 1874.
They share the Chautauqua DNA, the four Chautauqua pillars — religion, education, arts and recreation — regardless of size, length of program and age.
It is “a group of organizations and individuals committed to the communication and implementation of the chautauqua concept of building community by supporting all persons in the development of their full potential intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically,” according to the Chautauqua Trail website. “The Chautauqua Trail facilitates interaction and communication among its members to further their preservation, growth and development.”
The Chautauqua in Plains, Georgia, is evidence that the Chautauqua ideal is alive, well, and appealing to contemporary audiences. Its roots date back to the early 1900s when Plains resident and teacher Julia Coleman visited Chautauqua Institution and returned with the idea of mini-Chautauqua programing and lectures.
However, in 2008 under the auspices of the Plains Historical Preservation Trust and the blessing of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter, the Plains Chautauqua began again in earnest.
Director Annette Wise said though there are lectures and programs during the year, the big event is a weekend of programming; this year, the weekend of Oct. 10.
Wise is delighted to be coming to Chautauqua; she’s looking forward to visiting and getting away from the Georgia heat.
“We are coming Saturday. I may never get a chance to come again,” she said. “It is also a great opportunity to learn, network and garner ideas. You learn what has worked and what hasn’t.”
The Chautauqua Trail, formerly the Chautauqua Network, began in 1982 when former Chautauquan Daily editor and Chautauqua historian Alfreda Locke Irwin began contacting other Chautauquas. Michael Sullivan, former director of Institution relations, took up the banner when Irwin died. He gave a brief history of the Network in the Daily published Aug. 2, 2000.
“In 1983, Irwin invited some of the remaining Chautauquas to get acquainted,” the Daily reported. “Members of three Chautauquas attended including Mt. Gretna, Pennsylvania; Monteagle, Tennessee; and Ocean Park, Maine.”
Daily articles chart the growth and success of the effort, noting that Chautauqua hosted the convention every other year.
Those pioneers are among the Chautauquas coming this year. The others are Wawasee, Indiana; Lakeside, Ohio; Muskoka, Ontario, Canada; Waxahachie, Texas; Plains, Georgia; and Bay View, Michigan.
Frank Gwalthney, from the Ocean Park, Maine, Chautauqua is president of the Trail. He said that his goal for this meeting is approval to seek 501(c)(3) designation for the Trail.
There will also be a roundtable discussion on beginning a Chautauqua and election of new officers.
Other members of the Trail are Chagrin in Chagrin, Ohio; Chautauqua at the Riverside, Michigan; Chautauqua, Boulder, Colorado; Epworth Assembly, Michigan; Florida Chautauqua, DeFuniak Springs, Florida; Ocean Grove, New Jersey; New Piasa, Illinois.
The representatives are: Helen Alden, Andrea Binkle, Muskoka, Canada; Robert Brucken, Lakeside, Ohio; Joe and Barb Caner, Lakeside, Ohio; Bill and Nancy Carlson, Lakeside, Ohio; Alma Chapman, Plains, Georgia; Gretchen Colon, Lakeside, Ohio; Gretchen Curtis, Lakeside, Ohio; Gayle Dempsey, Muskoka, Canada; Dan Dudley, Lakeside, Ohio; P.A. and Christi Dunfee, Lakeside, Ohio; Carolyn and Katie Fleisher, Lakeside, Ohio; Jerry and Judy Gosselin, Ocean Park, Maine; Alice Griffin, Monteagle, Tennessee; Frank and Helen Gwaltheny, Ocean Park, Maine; Rich and Lynn Hoffman, Outer Banks, North Carolina; Jim and Judith Humphreys, Monteagle, Tennessee; Kirk and Maureen Hunter-Moore, Waxahachie, Texas; David King, Chautauqua, New York; Greg and Pam Maloof, Monteagle, Tennessee; Andy Matthews, Wawasee, Indiana; George and Pat McCormick, Lakeside, Ohio; Richard McFall, Innsbrook, Missouri; Scott and Linda Parrish, Monteagle, Tennessee; Boots Schafer, Chautauqua, New York; Kevin Sibbring, Lakeside, Ohio; Cliff and Kathy Snavely, Mt. Gretna, Pennsylvania; Ann Strong, Wawasee, Indiana; Melissa Thompson, Bay View, Michigan; Marlies West, Wawasee, Indiana; Nathan Day Wilson, Wawasee, Indiana; and Annette Wise, Plains, Georgia.