Chautauqua is comin’ to Port Townsend | Rhody Fest

New Old Time celebration of culture and community dovetails with Rhododendron Festival

Posted 5/18/22

In its 40th year, the New Old Time Chautauqua will enliven Rhody Fest goers with an array of events and workshops across town this week.

Chautauqua is a national age-old tradition determined to …

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Chautauqua is comin’ to Port Townsend | Rhody Fest

New Old Time celebration of culture and community dovetails with Rhododendron Festival

Posted

In its 40th year, the New Old Time Chautauqua will enliven Rhody Fest goers with an array of events and workshops across town this week.

Chautauqua is a national age-old tradition determined to explore the best in human values and enrichment of life, referred to famously by Teddy Rosevelt as the most American thing about America. With modest beginnings, Chautauqua began as a tiny operation in the woods that sought to bring people together.

The name itself has connective connotations, originally an Iroquois word with a few meanings, one being “two moccasins tied together.” The term was popularized as describing the shape of a lake in southwest New York, Chautauqua Lake.

The lake became an educational centerpiece when John Heyl Vincent and Lewis Miller rented a site there in 1874 to use as a summer school for Sunday school teachers. Vincent and Miller were determined to provide an educational experience rather than a revivalist one and the nondenominational camp became known as the Chautauqua Institution.

Over the years, the institute incorporated adult education of all kinds and, by the end of the century, was “nationally known as a center for rather earnest, but high-minded, activities that aimed at intellectual and moral self-improvement and civic involvement” (chautauqua.com).

The New Old Time Chautauqua troupe was founded in 1981 by performers, health care workers, educators, the Flying Karamazov Brothers, Dr. Patch Adams, and more, in hopes of bringing the Chautauqua spirit to rural communities around Washington, Oregon, California, and the surrounding area.

Through workshops, performances, education, music, and even acrobatics, the traveling troupe New Old Chautauqua seeks to “engender community,” said Paul Magid, one of its members.

While Chautauqua has been coming to the Olympic Peninsula for a century, this particular troupe returns for their 40th year to join the Rhody Festival in a week that’s “not only fun and entertaining but also gives an opportunity to engage with one another in a meaningful and positive way,” said Megan Claflin of The Production Alliance, which is helping to put on the event.

Claflin said TPA and NOTC are a perfect pair, like peanut butter and chocolate, as they both believe in the formidable power of joyful gathering as a mechanism for inspiring inclusive and dynamic community.

The three-day weekend event will span the breadth of time and ask how we identify as a community now and in the future in carnival-like spirit.

“Chautauqua isn’t simply about entertainment, our purpose runs deeper,” said Chautauquan Kristin Crowley.

“It’s about inspiring individuals to show up intentionally and participate meaningfully in conversations and in relationship building.”

Events will include a community picnic and dance party, an outdoor movie featuring “PT Shorts,” a compilation of fun, family-friendly short films written and produced by local filmmakers, and presentations by leaders of Pacific Northwest Coastal Tribes and local and state elected officials, opening a dialogue on specific needs and response plans.

The NOTC week begins at Littlefield Green in Fort Worden State Park at 5 p.m. Friday with a community picnic, followed by the opening ceremony, a performance by The Unexpected Brass Band, and the outdoor movie showing. Saturday will see the Cake Picnic (complete with free artisan cake, live music, and dancing) at 3 p.m. at Pope Marine Park and, at 7 p.m., The Big Show (acrobats, juggling, and more!) will kick off at the McCurdy Pavilion at Fort Worden.

Head back out to Littlefield Green on Sunday for workshops, the PT Lottery (where everyone wins), and Chautauqua Community Congress.

Find more information about Chautauqua, its history, the NOTC, and this weekend’s events at https://chautauqua.org/.

 

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