Making merry from the desert to the sea: Chautauqua returns to state parks for 2018 summer tour

Chautauqua parade Dayton

When the Chautauqua is in town, it's time to clown around! The New Old Time Chautauqua brings a whole new level of fun to small towns when on tour, like this 2016 parade in Dayton.

May 16, 2018

Juggling a lot of cares?

Need a chance to laugh? To learn? To live a little?

We’ve got the perfect Rx: The New Old Time Chautauqua!

This summer, our Folk and Traditional Arts Program welcomes back the merrymakers of America’s only traveling Chautauqua for a three-week run of education and fun! The Chautauqua (say cha-TAWK-wah) sensation will roll out to six spectacular parks on a tour of Washington’s beautiful lands and small towns, from the desert to the mountains to the sea.

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In their heyday, Chautauquas drew thousands of visitors to their unique blend of education and entertainment.

So what is a Chautauqua? Think of it as a roving beehive of American culture that evolves at every stop. President Teddy Roosevelt once touted Chautauquas as “the most American thing in America.”

The Chautauqua tradition was born more than 140 years ago on the idyllic shore of Chautauqua Lake (hence the name) in upstate New York. Held in large, brown tents and often in a beautiful, natural setting, the Chautauqua movement was a cultural sensation.

Today, the tradition continues with the New Old Time Chautauqua. Founded in 1981 by performers and educators including Dr. Patch Adams and the Flying Karamazov Brothers, the NOTC summer tours revive the Chautauqua spirit, and bring live entertainment and educational workshops to rural communities.

“The idea of the Chautauqua-State Parks partnership is to renew ties and to foster goodwill between the towns and their local state parks,” said Paul Magid, founding member of the NOTC and The Flying Karamazov Brothers.

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Knot tying Larrabee

Want to learn how to juggle — the fun way? Interested in the history, botany or animal life in your state park? Want to pluck a ukulele, dance a samba or even achieve that most elusive of laundry goals, folding a fitted sheet? Learn and play with a vaudevillian variety of entertainers, orators, scientists, park staff and more!

This year, NOTC and State Parks are honored to be working with the Confederated Tribes of Colville and Lummi Nation to include Native voices in re-shaping the stories of state parks. This is part of the Folk and Traditional Arts Program’s goal to ensure that tribal perspectives and stories are appropriately, accurately and authentically presented.

Learn. Play. Repeat. An NOTC tour is as much about the fun of learning as it is about song and dance. Here, visitors learn knot tying at Larrabee State Park during the NOTC 2016 state parks tour.

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Want an idea of what a Chautauqua is like? Check out this video from the NOTC 2015 tour of Alaska. 

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Each stop on the NOTC-State Parks tour includes a spectacular Really Big Show, like this one held in Republic during the 2016 state parks tour. 

Are you ready to Chautauqua? Here’s the schedule for the 2018 Summer Tour.

♦ DESERT ♦ 

Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park

When:  June 16
4 to 6 p.m. — workshops
6 to 8 p.m. — potluck
Where: Sun Lakes Amphitheater (Driving directions)
The skinny: Join the NOTC performers on the opening` weekend of their tour at Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park. The fun begins with a morning community cleanup of Pioneer Cemetery in Coulee City. Later that afternoon, park staff and partners will present workshops at the park’s amphitheater. Stick around for the potluck dinner — and bring a potluck dish! NOTC will bring a cook trailer. Stuffed? Now enjoy music, dancing and an evening showing of Ice Age Flood films.
More fun: At 1:30 p.m. on June 17, the NOTC crew and local community will parade through downtown Coulee City to Almira Coulee Hartline Highschool. At the high school, NOTC members and locals will present workshops, demos, crafts and more from starting at 2 p.m. At 7  p.m., make sure to check out the Really Big Show in the high school gym. On June 14, 15, 19 and 20, the NOTC will visit community centers on The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Keller, Nespelem, Inchelium, and Omak, respectively.

♦ MOUNTAIN ♦ 

Pearrygin Lake State Park

When: June 22
4 to 6 p.m. — workshops
6 to 8 p.m. — potluck
Where: Pearrygin Lake State Park (Driving directions)
The skinny: Following the morning community service project, NOTC members will join park staff and partners to present workshops. Then, get ready to eat as the NOTC rolls out its cook trailer and invites the public to bring their own favorites to share. Belly full? Take in some fun music as you digest!
More fun: Additional events, performances, workshops and shows will be held in the town of Twisp on June 23. Following a morning parade through Twisp, learn juggling, mask making, clowning and dance. Enjoy education programs on topics like alternative energy and more! Don’t miss the NOTC’s two-hour variety Really Big Show that night at the Methow Valley Community Center!

Alta Lake State Park

When:  June 24
3:30 p.m. — Music
4 to 6 p.m. — Workshops presented by park staff, tribal members, and NOTC members
6 p.m. — Community potluck
8 p.m. — NOTC show
Where:  Alta Lake State Park (Driving directions)

Conconully State Park

When: June 26
3:30 p.m. — Music
4 to 6 p.m. — Workshops presented by park staff, tribal members, and NOTC members
6 p.m. — Community potluck
8 p.m. — NOTC show
Where:  Conconully State Park (Directions)


♦ SEA ♦ 

Birch Bay State Park

When: June 29
4 to 6 p.m. — workshops
6 to 8 p.m. — potluck
Where: BP Heron Center (Driving directions)
The skinny: After they complete a community service project and devote some time to local retirement homes and care facilities, the NOTC gang will join park staff and partners for an afternoon of workshops. Gather that evening at the BP Heron Center for a delicious potluck dinner. Pat your tummy, and get ready for some fun with speakers, music and dancing.
More fun: On June 28, the NOTC will visit the Lummi Nation for community service projects, workshops, a community feed and show.

Peace Arch State Park

When: June 30
Noon — parade
Where: Peace Arch State Park (Directions)
The skinny: We love a parade! So does the NOTC. And so will you as you join the fun at Peace Arch, and follow the merry mix of faeries, jugglers, dancers, along with the NOTC marching band, to the Blaine Performing Arts Center.
More fun: Learn folk singing, magic, storytelling and more during afternoon workshops at Blaine Performing Arts Center. Stick around for the two-hour Really Big Show at 7 p.m. featuring music, juggling, up-and-coming comics, acrobats and more!

Want even more NOTC inspiration?Red Noses, Curlew lake
Check out these photos and videos from the NOTC’s 2016 state parks tour.

The NOTC tour is an ever-evolving event. Stay up to date!
Follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@WaStatePks) for up-to-the minute information on the 2018 NOTC tour.

You'll never "nose" how much fun you can have until you Chautauqua!