Just as its name implies, the New Old Chautauqua celebrates both the new and the old at free events today in Lapwai and Saturday at Fields Spring State Park near Anatone.The New Old Chautauqua is a new take on an old movement to provide cultural enrichment to rural areas through education and entertainment. The movement started in the 1870s and was popular through the 1920s. The New Old Chautauqua was founded in 1981 and tours a few weeks in the Northwest every summer.
This year’s chautauqua holds something both new and old: a new partnership with Washington State Parks and a revival of the Nez Percians, a Nez Perce swing band that was popular and toured throughout the region beginning in the 1920s.
The park partnership developed when Deborah Fant, coordinator of Washington’s Folk and Traditional Arts Program, discovered the organization in an effort to expand park programming.
“It seemed we had so much in common with their mission,” Fant said, citing shared values of education, entertainment, recreation and connection to local cultural heritage.
The goal of the partnership is to reinforce connections within local communities and with communities to their parks. Chautauqua events are typically two-day affairs held in one location, but it worked best to for the local event to have two close-but-separate locations and events.
Today’s events in Lapwai begin with a community parade, followed by workshops.
“The chautauqua brings a repertoire of workshops from fun things like hula hoops and juggling to more serious lectures,” Fant said. The workshops offered by the touring chautauqua volunteers are supplemented by local experts, based on the interests and skills in a community.
Two 45-minute workshop sessions are offered in each event location. Workshops in Lapwai include topics like clowning, acrobatics, storytelling and medicinal salves, along with regional specialties.
Following a community covered dish dinner, an evening show will feature a variety of performances from a magician, aerialist, jugglers, singers, a poet and more. The event will be followed by a community dance that features the Nez Percians swing band.
It was at an early meeting with Nez Perce leaders that a committee member said how much the tribe loved music. Besides traditional Nez Perce music, swing music had played a significant part in the history of the community. A decision was made to partner the existing 25-piece chautauqua band with Nez Perce musicians to play songs from the Nez Percian swing band.
“The elders are excited about having this swing band because it captures this music of their youth,” Fant said.
A smaller event will be held Saturday at Fields Spring State Park. The workshops at Fields Spring will include different local selections from the one in Lapwai, including a park history walking tour, arts and crafts and a lecture on Ice Age floods. Chautauqua performers will provide entertainment during the covered dish dinner. Park day-use fees apply: $10/one-day pass or $30/annual pass.
IF YOU GO:
Thursday in Lapwai
1 p.m., parade on Main St.
1:30 p.m., workshops at Lapwai City Park, Boys & Girls Club
4:30 p.m., barbecue potluck at Lapwai City Park
6:30 p.m., variety show at Pi Nee Waus
8:30 p.m., dance at Pi Nee Waus
Saturday at Fields Spring State Park near Anatone
4 p.m., workshops
6 p.m., potluck with entertainment by the Chautauqua band
All events are free of charge