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Trivia to benefit annual Chautauqua

Each July Chautauqua draws a large crowd under the big top.

File photo

A trivia night has been planned by Big River Chautauqua to help fund this year’s event.

The sixth annual trivia night will be held at Heritage Hall on Saturday and registration will begin at 6:30 p.m., with trivia starting at 7 p.m.

Chautauqua Committee Member Paul Williams said the cost is $10 per person with a maximum of 10 per table. He said you don’t need a group to play, and they will place you at a table that isn’t full.

“There is no need to preregister and there will be free beverages, pizza and snacks included with your registration fee,” said Williams. “There will be mulligans and people are encouraged and invited to bring their own food and drinks if they’d like.”

Williams added all of the proceeds goes toward Chautauqua. He said they have a lot of fun each year.

“This year’s Chautauqua is going to be July 19, 20 and 21 and it will be held on the ball field behind city hall like they do every year,” said Williams. “This year’s theme is ‘Laughter, Gossip and Magic, Entertaining America.’ Minnie Pearl will provide the laughter and the gossip is going to be provided by Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper.”

Williams said they will perform the same night and they are from the 1930s, 40s and 50s. They are going to gossip about movie stars and other people from that era.

“On Saturday night we will have Harry Houdini for the entertainment,” said Williams. “It’s just like every year, we will have food starting at 5:30 p.m., we will have pre-show entertainment starting at 6 p.m. and the Chautauqua Singers will begin at 6:30 p.m., followed by the featured speaker at 7:30 p.m.”

Williams said it is rain or shine and they have their fingers crossed there won’t be any rain.

The idea behind the 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 began with real-life performers who traveled the country telling stories of the events that made them famous. Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt is quoted as saying that Chautauqua is “the most American thing in America.”

The event takes its name from the very first Chautauqua, organized in 1874 by Methodist minister John Heyl Vincent and businessman Lewis Miller at a campsite on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in New York State. Circuit Chautauquas began in 1904 under tents in communities like Bonne Terre around the nation.

Chautauqua events included current events, travel and stories. William Jennings Bryan, with his populist and evangelical message addressing topics such as temperance, was the most popular Chautauqua speaker, until his death in 1925.

It takes an estimated $14,000 each year to bring this event to St. Francois County and the Big River Chautauqua Committee is dependent upon donations from individuals and businesses.

If you would like to donate or become a member of the Chautauqua Committee, you can contact Paul Williams at 573-358-5146 or for those who would like to mail a donation make checks out to Old Bonne Terre Inc., in care of Paul Williams, P.O. Box 105, Bonne Terre, Mo 63628.

The Big River Chautauqua is the longest continually running, privately-funded Chautauqua show in the nation. This will be the 23rd year for the event which is held in Bonne Terre. The event is free to the public.

Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or



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