10th Annual Chautauqua

by Dave on June 18, 2008

Looking for something to do in Lewes this weekend? On June 22,2008 – June 25,2008 check out the 10th Annual Chautauqua Tent Show.

Lewes, Delaware will be alive with a quintessentially American cultural experience during the 10th Annual Chautauqua Tent Show that will take place on the grounds of the Zwaanendael Museum and the Lewes Historical Society from June 22-25, 2008.

A unique mixture of education and entertainment, Lewes’ Chautauqua will be held under a large tent and will feature re-enactors who take on the persona of celebrated historical figures, educating and entertaining audiences as they bring the past to life. Audience members are encouraged to ask questions and interact with the featured characters who will include composer and bandmaster John Philip Sousa, jazz singer Billie Holiday, composer George Gershwin, and renowned Delaware jazz trumpeter Clifford Brown. Additional offerings will include musical activities and performances, lectures, and a program on old-time radio shows. Admission is free and open to the public. Go here for a complete listing of activities.

Chautauqua takes its name from a series of adult education programs that were first held at a campsite on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in upstate New York during the late 19th century. Chautauquas spread throughout America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries bringing speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers, and specialists of the day to a wide cross-section of the nation’s rural and small-town population. Circuit Chautauquas (or colloquially, Tent Chautauquas) were an itinerant manifestation of the movement. Programs would be presented in tents pitched in a field near town. After several days, the Chautauqua would fold its tents and move on to the next community. The popularity of Chautauquas peaked in the mid-1920s, after which radio, movies, and automobiles brought about the gradual disappearance of the movement by the 1940s.

Reborn in the 1970s as a vehicle for humanities education, modern Chautauquas are organized around a core program in which re-enactors take on the persona of celebrated historical figures, speaking and interacting with audiences, often in the setting of a large outdoor tent. In Delaware, modern Chautauquas have been presented annually since 1999 under the auspices of the Delaware Humanities Forum featuring a wide variety of historical figures including Benjamin Franklin; Sacagawea, a Shoshoni Indian guide; Mark Twain; Harriet Tubman; Delaware patriot Caesar Rodney; and Dr. Yee Fung, a Gold Rush doctor. In 2008, Delaware’s 10th annual Chautauqua is co-sponsored by the Lewes Historical Society and the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, with grant support from the Delaware Humanities Forum.

Additional programs that will be taking place in Lewes during the week of June 21—28 include the 18th Annual Lewes Garden Tour on June 21 (sponsored by the Lewes Chamber of Commerce, 302- 645-8073, www.leweschamber.com); and “Lewes Seafaring Days” on June 27 and 28 (sponsored by the Lewes Historical Society, 302-645-7670, www.historiclewes.org.

This post was copied from the State of Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs webpage.

For more information, call 302-645-8073 or visit http://history.delaware.gov/.

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