Chautauqua in the Park is this weekend

For the Constitution-Tribune

The 36th Annual Chautauqua in the Park is this weekend, Sept. 11-12,  at Simpson Park. This annual event, sponsored by the Chillicothe Area Chamber of Commerce and the Chillicothe Area Arts Council, and presented by Hedrick Medical Center, has a wide variety of entertainment, activities, artists, crafts and food.

“We have well over 100 booth spaces this year with vendors from throughout Missouri and the Midwest,” Crystal Narr, Executive Director of the Chillicothe Area Chamber of Commerce said. “Many artists and crafters are signed up to showcase and sell their products to the estimated 6000 people who attended Chautauqua each year from a multi-state area.

“We also have a very loyal returning vendor group and are excited that they have joined us again this year along with new ones to freshen up the mix.” Wood crafts, clothing, accessories, jewelry, photography, ceramics/pottery, painting and many other types of fine arts and crafts are all represented throughout the festival. Over 100 craft, food and children’s booths have registered.

One unique part of the festival, the Traditional Arts area, sponsored by Green Hills Communications, showcases the talents of spinners, weavers, metal artists and many others who take a craft back to its roots, and demonstrate at the festival. This area will again have demonstrators and vendors.

“The Traditional Arts part of the festival is organized each year by Zelma Cleaveland – she is the driving force behind this area and we are so grateful. This year the area will showcase over 20 different traditional arts, some of which will include hands on participation from onlookers,” Narr said.

A crowd favorite from the past few years will be back again this year and will be adjacent to the Traditional Arts area and will showcase the Mountain Men, sponsored by Sonoco. The Reeter family will have a fully viable camp set up complete with open fire, house dwelling, tools and anything else they would have needed to live back in the early days.

The Chillicothe Area Arts Council and its Administrator, Mary Lou VanDeventer, are the architects of the entertainment each year at the Chautauqua. They schedule a variety of local and regional artists who share their love of music with the audience. Many different genres are represented – country, bluegrass, rock, jazz, Christian and gospel – and according to VanDeventer, “We feel that there is something for every family member to enjoy in the entertainment showcased over the weekend. It is a wonderful concentration of talent in Simpson Park for the Chautauqua.”

VanDeventer adds, “Come sit under the large tent in front of the stage and enjoy the entertainment!”

There will also be many activities for kids during the festival, especially in the Children’s Area sponsored by HyVee, which will include a petting zoo on Saturday presented by the Chillicothe FFA, face painting, and inflatable games, a mechanical bull and activities.

A wide variety of food will be available both in the food court and throughout the park on the trails. Many of the organizations that sell food at the Chautauqua are non-profit groups in the Chillicothe area that raise money to support charitable efforts throughout the year.

Simpson Park is closed for the festival through Sunday evening. No car or truck traffic, golf carts, bicycles, rollerblades, skateboards, recreational scooters, etc. owned by the general public are allowed in or through the park for the safety of all participants.

Parking for attendees is available in and around the park, with a limited number of handicapped spaces available for those individuals with a handicapped license plate or official handicapped permit. Those needing handicapped parking for assistance should enter through the south Walnut Street gate of Simpson Park.

Another transportation alternative is offered again this year. A shuttle service -- made possible this year by Calvary Baptist Church & First Baptist Church – will be available from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., between Citizens Bank & Trust downtown parking lot and the east Washington Street entrance of the Park on Saturday.

“Our 2021 Chautauqua volunteers will be wearing teal shirts this year,” commented VanDeventer, “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 140 volunteers. We are so lucky to have such a dedicated volunteer group!”