For one week this past July the community of Summerside once again experienced the excitement of a Chautauqua in its midst. In celebration of 2014, Wyatt Heritage Properties Inc. and La Belle Alliance presented In the Spirit of Chautauqua, a five-day festival of diverse entertainment under the big tent in the middle of downtown Water Street. It recreated the travelling Chautauquas that came yearly to Summerside from 1919 to 1929.
For many years the Chautauqua circuit travelled by rail to small communities across North America providing a level of entertainment not otherwise accessible to small towns. However, the introduction of radio and talking movies rendered this form of entertainment obsolete.
But Chautauqua is making a comeback in many communities and it proved successful in Summerside. Now, Wyatt Heritage Properties Inc. and La Belle Alliance are taking it on the road to three Island communities the first week of September, which happens to be the actual anniversary week of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference.
For these travelling events, the tent will stay behind and community venues will be used.
The first stop is Lennox Island on Wednesday, Sept. 3. The historic St. Anne’s Church will be the venue for the indoor entertainment; however the fire eater, The Amazing Christose, will perform outside the community cultural centre next door.
A diverse program is being offered including storytelling from Charlie Sark, a talk about restoring our connection with water from Don Mazer, and musical entertainment from Mi’kmaq drum groups New Generation Singers and Red Clay Singers, as well as Madam O’Brien and Her Duelling Pianos (which features Catherine O’Brien, Max Keenlyside, and Sean Ferris).
Start time is 4 p.m., and admission is by donation in support of the Lennox Island Cultural Centre, which will also host a barbecue.
The second travelling Chautauqua stops at the historic Princetown United Church in Malpeque on Saturday, Sept. 6, for an evening program starting at 6:30 p.m.
The lineup of entertainment is entirely different from the first evening. Kelley Mooney and Johnny Ross will kick off the evening’s program, followed by Captain Dick’s Rum Running Tour and Nathan Wiley.
Admission will be $15 in support of the church. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time from committee members and, if available, at the door. Strawberries and ice cream will also be sold during a refreshment break.
The third stop for the travelling Chautauqua will be DeBlois on Sunday, Sept. 7, at 2 p.m. The venue is Le Centre Acadien de Prince-Ouest and the lineup is again entirely new. The program balances entertainment for all ages with face-painting by Maurice Bernard, as well as performances by The Amazing Christose, Rosco the Clown, Mike Pendergast, Les Étoiles Acadienne, and Louise and Helene.
No admission will be charged as the community wishes it to be accessible for all.