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July 15 Chautauqua brings history alive

Editor’s Note: For 60 days, we’re sharing some of the most identifiable images of the Parkland. The daily series began July 14.

Where else but Chautauqua could you go to meet historical figures like Dr. Seuss and Eleanor Roosevelt?

The Big River Chautauqua started 20 years ago, brought to the Parkland by Joe Layden and Sherry Greminger of the Daily Journal. It is the longest continually running, privately-funded Chautauqua in the nation.

The idea behind Chautauqua is to bring history to life in an entertaining and unusual way. Scholars, who have studied the life and times of historical figures extensively, portray the figures, dressing and speaking as the character throughout the show.

Chautauqua originally began in 1874 with real-life performers who traveled the country telling stories of the events that made them famous. Circuit Chautauquas began in 1904 under tents in communities much like Bonne Terre around the nation. Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt is quoted as saying that Chautauqua is “the most American thing in America.”

This year’s theme is 1864, the year Bonne Terre was founded. It will be held under a tent behind Bonne Terre City Hall July 17-19. Speakers will be Sam Hildebrand, General Thomas Ewing and Jefferson Davis and Ulysses S. Grant. During Chautauqua food will be served at 5:30 p.m., pre-show entertainment with the Chautauqua Singers will begin at 6:30 p.m., followed by the featured speaker at 7:30 p.m.

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