Stop a minute. The voice of a single
flute seems to stir the maple leaves overhead. A friendly bat diligently sweeps
the ether for mosquitos.
Here, beside a lake in western New York, where muskellunge
prowl the weedbeds, on just such a summer's eve 122 years ago the first cluster
of Chautauqua tents glowed with lantern light and human faces radiated the light
"Chautauqua is an idea, embracing 'all things of life'-art,
science, society, religion, patriotism, education-whatsoever tends to enlarge,
refine and ennoble the individual," John Heyl Vincent, the Institution's
co-founder, explained long ago. Before the advent of modern communication, Chautauqua
Institution tents brought enlightenment to the far reaches of rural America. Today,
the original self-contained lakeside community bustles with 142,000 visitors each
summer.Tents have evolved into fairy tale Victorian cottages, whose gingerbread
and flower-decked porches entice visitors. The original Methodist Sunday school
teachers' curriculum has expanded to include a cultural feast of over 200 summer
courses: anything from the realities and misperceptions of Islam to basic investing;
from gliding and soaring to mountain dulcimer making. The concept has grown, but
the faces still glow.
Would you care for a little Toscanini after your
Tennesee Williams? Or a bit of tai-chi before tennis? You can have dinner at Thomas
Edison's favorite table in the Athenaeum, one of the last great old wooden hotels,
or simply picnic on the lake.
Automobiles are relegated to a parking
lot outside the main gate, and television is an anachronism here. There is a sense
of time and tradition, but also one of youth and excitement.
always been welcome. "Bring the boys and girls to the Assembly," an
1877 Chautauqua newspaper said. "They may spend half their time climbing
trees or boating on the lake...but they cannot avoid seeing and hearing many things
which will...shape their destiny in life."
I came for the Highlights
children's literature conference and came away with a vision that will stay with
me always. There is a place where dreams live and hearts are open. It is Chautauqua.
If you go: Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, N.Y., 800-836-ARTS.
Located 16 miles northwest of Jamestown, N.Y.
·Admission to most events
by gate ticket (day, week or season)
·Privately owned hotels &
guest rooms on the grounds; reserve early. Off-grounds accommodations also available.
·Discount vacation packages.
·A variety of recreation, youth
and religious activities.
·For opera and theater tickets call 716-357-6250.
Susan Beckhorn has had stories and illustrations published by Cricket,
Highlights and Horsepower magazines.