Bishop Hill’s ninth annual Chautauqua looks back at the history of the Chautauqua Movement. “We have invited these voices from the past who have something to say to our audiences today,” says Artistic Director Brian “Fox” Ellis. The free festival takes place on August 27-28 and is hosted by the Bishop Hill Heritage Association in the village’s newly restored gazebo in the town square.

“Chautauqua” is an Iroquois word with several meanings, including “a bag tied in the middle” or “two moccasins tied together.” It also describes the shape of Chautauqua Lake, located in southwest New York State, which was the setting for the Chautauqua Institution, the first educational assembly in what became a major movement at the turn of the 20th Century. The Institution grew to include a correspondence course, the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, which was designed to bring “a college outlook” to working and middle-class people. The Chautauqua Movement grew out of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle as its members and graduates spread the “chautauqua” idea and many towns, especially in rural areas where opportunities for secondary education were limited, established “chautauquas.”

The festival starts on August 27th at 10 a.m. with “A Storyteller’s Tour of Bishop Hill”, a 90 minute walking tour led by Ellis that begins at the Twinflower Inn. The tour circles the town and will include stories of its founding, as well as some of its more colorful recent history. At 1 p.m. in the park, Ellis will portray Robert Ridgway, an Illinois native who became the first full-time curator of birds at the United States National Museum. Ridgway was also the primary author of The Birds of North and Middle America. At 2 p.m., storyteller and author Stephen Hollen will bring Mark Twain’s wit and humor to life with a lively mix of quotes and popular and lesser known stories. Mark Twain was a Chautauqua lecturer. At 3 p.m., Michael Hurt will sing songs made popular by the Fisk Jubilee Singers. The program covers the history of Black vocal music, including field hollers and call and response work songs of the South and of the West Indies.

On Sunday, August 28th, the program starts in the park at 1 p.m. with Hammer and Pick and a rowdy tour of American folk music. Jon Wagner plays hammered dulcimer, banjo, guitar and harmonica; Jan Sams plays guitar and bass; and William Hope adds his guitar & dobro. At 2 p.m., Ellis will portray President Herbert Hoover in a program based on his book Fishing for Fun–and to Wash Your Soul. Hoover will recall some of his favorite fish tales from his boyhood fishing in West Branch, tell a few fishing jokes and stories of fishing with other world leaders and how he used fishing as a diplomatic tool. At 3 p.m., Stephen Hollen will bring Buffalo Bill to life with tales of the Wild West.

All programs will be held at the newly restored gazebo in Bishop Hill’s town square, on the corners of Main Street and Bishop Hill Road, in Bishop Hill, IL. Visitors are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and friends, enjoy lunch in one of several restaurants or visit the many shops and museums. For more information, call 309-927-3899, email or click here.