The 28th Annual Chautauqua in the Park, sponsored by Hedrick Medical Center, is this upcoming weekend, and preparations are in full swing. The Chillicothe Area Chamber of Commerce and the Chillicothe Area Arts Council present this celebration each year, and are planning on a wonderful weekend full of food, fun and entertainment.

Chautauqua's hours are Saturday, Sept. 8, from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 9, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Simpson Park on Highway 65 in Chillicothe will again be the location for this long-running festival.

A parking shuttle will run from the Citizens Bank parking lot in downtown Chillicothe to Simpson Park from 9:30 am until 3:45 p.m. on Saturday only. Grand River Healthcare will be volunteering their vans and employees' time to provide the shuttles for the community.

This year's Chautauqua will have many new craft and food vendors – over 30 to date. The Arts Council has scheduled many wonderful local and area musicians for the entertainment and storytelling stage. Familiar faces will be at the festival as well – traditional artisans and their craft demonstrations, kettle corn, farmer's market vendors, face painting, and much more. A new exhibit within the Traditional Arts area will be "Sheep to Shawl" where visitors can see raw sheep wool become a cozy, wearable shawl sweater. Festival-goers will also be able to visit nearly 20 different food booths throughout the park.

"We are really looking forward to this year's festival – there are so many new vendors and entertainers," said Lindy Chapman, executive director of the Chillicothe Area Chamber of Commerce. "Vendors will be offering unique items for sale, including many kinds of wood crafts, jewelry, candles, metalwork, leather products, pottery and ceramics, gourds, glass designs, dolls, accessories for children, photography, sewing crafts and primitives."

As usual, the storytellers and entertainers will be one of the highlights of the festival. "The Arts Council has worked hard this year to offer a wide range of musical talent at the Chautauqua," explained Julie Ashbrook, Administrator of the Chillicothe Area Arts Council. "New this year for children, we will have a wonderfully talented drummer in Brandon Draper of Drum Safari and an entertaining storyteller and puppeteer in Priscilla Howe. We will also feature Jesse Lee, formerly of Chillicothe, who sings a mix of country, rock and bluegrass." These new faces will join many returning groups and storytellers including Byron von Rosenberg, Kindred Spirits, The Gorsett Family, Cheap Guitars, Meller Fellers and many more.

Once again this year, Windjammer Cable, returning sponsor of the Children's Area, will have a hair painting booth. The FFA will sponsor the scavenger hunt and the petting zoo. Additionally, inflatable games, face painting, a special preschool activities tent and much more will be available for children to enjoy during the festival. Many items are also for sale throughout the park for children..

"Our 2012 Chautauqua volunteers will be wearing bright teal shirts this year," commented Chapman, "If you have questions or need information at the festival, stop by the information tent in the center of the park, or look for one of our 130 volunteers. They are our best asset!"