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Kickapoo Chautauqua

GAYS MILLS - Here’s an idea I’ve had kicking around my brain pan for quite a while, something I call, for lack of a better term, the Kickapoo Chautauqua. Are you familiar with that word, Chautauqua? It refers to a movement popular in America in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. It was a public gathering for education, entertainment, speakers, and discussion on the topics of the day. The first Chautauqua was held in 1874 on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in New York State. In the days before the excess access we “enjoy” today via television, radio, and most of all, devices, these meetings were a big deal.

Another, more modern word for such a gathering is salon, defined as a meeting for education or enjoyment. President and Mrs. Clinton attended something called a Renaissance Weekend for several years at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Begun in 1980, the Renaissance Weekends continue today. A diverse group of leaders gather on these weekend retreats to discuss business, finance, government, the arts, media, medicine, science and technology. Doesn’t that sound like fun?  

Hearing about the Renaissance Weekends is probably where I got the idea for a Kickapoo Chautauqua. The idea resurfaced to me after just enjoying another Apple Festival, number 60! This annual gathering is always so interesting. You never know who you will run into at Apple Festival, usually in an informal way. It’s in many ways a homecoming for a large area and a chance to see people you haven’t seen for years and meet new people.

So, as a friend of mine used to say, tongue firmly in cheek, “Let’s organize this thing and take all the fun out of it.” Actually, I think a gathering like a Chautauqua could be a lot of fun as well as stimulating and an important way to improve our communities. To bring diverse people together to talk about life in our little corner of the world would be a good thing.

And heaven knows we have diversity in our communities: ages, backgrounds, interests, skills, etc. True, we are not as racially diverse as most of America, but we tend to be down-to-Earth, independent, practical, and friendly. This tribe of ours is what people brag about when they gush about this area, that and the very welcoming and unique geography we are lucky enough to live in.

Most of us are as busy or busier than we choose to be. Groups like the Lions, the Sportsmen, fire and rescue departments, church organizations and so on meet regularly. I’m suggesting more of a big tent, inclusive gathering where there would be some cross-fertilization of ideas, community projects, and activities that make a community tight knit.

Many visitors to Apple Festival comment that we live in a “pretty little town,” or words to that effect. The recent flood has tested our mettle once again and caused us to think about and appreciate what we’ve got here and our potential to be an even greater place to live. Maybe a Chautauqua type meeting would be just what our tribe needs.