The Great American Picnic is exactly what it sounds like: a glimpse of true-blue Americana.
Brothers- and sisters-in-arms march under a vaulted arch as music plays and children throw flower petals. It may sound like a Roman triumph, but it’s actually more of a literary one — all part of the festivities for the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle’s Recognition Day.
Chautauquans looking for entertainment will find no shortage of it at the Great American Picnic this Sunday.
At 12:15 p.m. Sunday during the Crafts Alliance craft show on Bestor Plaza, the players of the Thursday Morning Brass will perform in front of the Colonnade. Their mission is to raise money for a scholarship fund that helps students in the Music School Festival Orchestra.
As “America’s Oldest Continuous Book Club,” the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle’s traditions date back to the late 1800s, and the CLSC Class of 2000 helped to keep the memories alive this season.
The Class of 2000 is the largest — consisting of 375 members — and its generosity is notable. It has donated $13,500 to the Hall of Philosophy’s aesthetic, supported the kiosk in front of Alumni Hall and contributed to the dues for the Zimbabwean members of the CLSC.
Their biggest contribution thus far is the $17,500 project to refurbish the Golden Gate’s arch, which the Class of 2000 raised in one year.
One hundred thirty-nine seasons. Innumerable traditions. More than 5,000 celebrants in the Amphitheater. A formidable number of birthday cakes. One night.
At 7:30 p.m. tonight, Old First Night will sweep the Amp again with all the mirth and merriment that accompanies the celebration of Chautauqua’s birthday each year. Founded in 1874, the Institution will pay homage to its roots with a number of the traditional programs Chautauquans new and seasoned look forward to each summer.
Dick Karslake, master of ceremonies for the past 23 celebrations, said he has more fun than anyone on Old First Night. He has noticed during the years that it offers something for everyone.
“There’s nothing there that is wasted effort or wasted energy, because it’s somebody’s favorite time,” he said of the traditional elements of the Old First Night program.