Ohio Chautauqua brings history alive in Madison

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Columbus – Madison, Ohio will flip the calendars back roughly two hundred years this month as Ohio Chautauqua rolls into town. Between July 2 and July 6, Madison will celebrate “When Ohio was the Western Frontier” as part of this Ohio Humanities traveling program. This year will mark Ohio Chautauqua’s fifteenth anniversary.

Throughout the week, the public is invited to partake in the festivities which center on five historical figures present in Ohio when it was still a frontier: naturalist and folk hero Johnny Appleseed, frontier aristocrat Margaret Blennerhassett, Iroquois leader Chief John Logan, Lewis & Clark expedition member York, and the hero of the Battle of Lake Erie Oliver Hazard Perry. Talented scholars will bring each figure to life and allow participants to interact face-to-face with these important and diverse historical figures.

Every night Stanton Park will feature performances by local musicians before the scholars take to the stage under the large, iconic white and red tent. “All of the performers are very, very talented local artists, and we’ve matched the music with the entertainer so it’ll be different every evening,” explained Denise Michaud, board member and research chairman of the Madison Historical Society.

The nightly performance schedule is as follows:

Tuesday, July 2
6:30 p.m. – Primrose (English and Irish Traditional Music)
7:30 p.m. - Margaret Blennerhassett by Debra Conner

Wednesday, July 3
6:30 p.m. – The Real Deal Stringband (lively, traditional string music)
7:30 p.m. - York by Marvin Jefferson

Thursday, July 4
6:30 p.m. – Madison Historical Brass Band (patriotic tunes played by community band)
7:30 p.m. - Oliver Hazard Perry by Jeremy Meier

Friday, July 5
6:30 p.m. – The Elements (Native American music)
7:30 p.m. - Chief John Logan by Dan Cutler

Saturday, July 6
6:30 p.m. – Laissez faire (father and son duo playing French Canadian and Early American fiddle)
7:30 p.m. - Johnny Appleseed by Hank Fincken

However, the festivities aren’t reserved solely for the evenings. Each day the Madison Public Library will host a youth workshop at 10:30 a.m. and an adult program at 2 p.m. with the scholars.

One of the most exciting features of Ohio Chautauqua is the opportunity for the host communities to cater the program to showcase local history. The Madison Historical Society aims to stress some of the unique aspects of the area throughout the programming, including having the Nursery Growers of Lake County sponsor Johnny Appleseed’s performance on the closing night. There will also be areas around the main tent in which attendees can learn about local history from local historians and organizations throughout the week.

Before each nightly performance, attendees are invited to enter the park as early as 5:30 p.m. for food and refreshments. One of the vendors is particularly significant to Madison’s history as the Western frontier.

“Madison is home to the old Unionville Tavern. Though not currently open, there has always been some sort of tavern or food service on the site since 1798, when people first arrived here,” explained Michaud. “In an effort to save the building, the vendor obtained the recipe for the corn fritters originally served there, and they’ll be serving them along with local natural syrup.”

The opportunity to enjoy this old fashioned delicacy fits perfectly with the goals of Ohio Chautauqua. Ohio Humanities presents the Ohio Chautauqua program as a way for Ohioans to experience history in a unique, hands-on and entertaining manner that is much more memorable than merely reading about it in a textbook.

“Chautauqua work is important because of the way it connects scholar and audience members,” said Debra Conner, Margaret Blennerhasset scholar. “It's interactive learning with a human - not a computer or television screen - delivering the information.”

Michaud agrees. “It’s something completely different than we’ve ever had come to this community. If you want a unique experience that combines drama and education and a fun time in the outdoors during the summer, Ohio Chautauqua is a good thing to come to,” she said. “So far, it’s been a great experience, and it has been an opportunity to learn how to bring lots of the community groups together and work on one project. It’s a very healthy and good experience and has helped us grow as a community.”

Ohio Humanities is excited to bring this program to the Madison community this year and looks forward to providing five days filled with history and fun.

"I like to say it's 'edutainment,'" said Fran Tiburzio, director of public relations for Ohio Humanities," and it really is. You learn while having fun, and the programs are enjoyable for any age. Bring your kids; bring your parents. Under the tent, there's a broad spectrum of people who are there to come face-to-face with history. The scholarship behind these performances is incredibly strong, and the scholars often speak in the historical figures' own words. Talking with the characters and asking them questions is so much more engaging than watching a movie or reading a book; it's as close to communicating with these important figures as you can get in the modern world."

For more information about individual youth workshops or adult programs, please visit OhioHumanities.org. More information regarding the Ohio Chautauqua program in general is also available online at facebook.com/Ohio Chautauqua

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