Chautauquas were like a traveling circus of sorts that involved self-betterment, continuing education, and entertainment. The first one was held in 1874.
Paul Magid is the artistic director of the New Old Time Chautauqua.
“Chautauqua is a funny kind of thing to describe because it has so many parts and pieces to it,” Magid says.
He is also the tour coordinator for the 2015 Southeast Alaska tour. The New Old Time Chautauqua is not for profit and includes all volunteers. They are about 50 professional performers, educators, and chefs who plan to visit regional towns next summer.
“We’re just like a catalyst that comes to a community and sort of amplifies with the community and sort of amplifies what the community already has and allows it to celebrate itself in a way,” Magid says.
The celebration comes in the form of a 25-piece marching band, educational workshops, and other performances.
The group is in the same town for three days. The first day involves a community potluck where the visitors and community share food. The second day includes music and theater performances at different locations throughout town. They will also help with any projects that the community needs done. The third day is a big parade leading to an area where free workshops are held.
“And the workshops involve everything from face painting and mask making, learning how to juggle, dance workshops, all kinds of circus skills and dance skills but then there’s also lectures, I do a history lecture on Chautauqua, and there’s a woman who will be doing one on Japanese internment camps during World War II and we encourage again that Petersburg for instance would bring in people who have some interested in imparting some knowledge to people about something that maybe you know really interests them to be part of the workshop scene,” Magid says.
That final evening there will be a large indoor performance at a chosen venue that includes Chautauqua performers and local performers.
There will also be an exhibit in the museum about the origins and history of Chautauquas. That will include information about traveling Chautauquas which came to the region in the teens and 20s of last century. That’s the time when they were peeking throughout the country.
No specific dates are set for the New Old Time Chautauqua coming to Southeast Alaska next year but they are planning for it to happen in the summertime.
There will be community meetings in the future about organizing the event. A local committee is being formed so the effort can be shared.