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Chautauqua Park

7.12.14

n my novel Profile, my character, Arden Chase, spends several scenes in Chautauqua Park. That’s a beautiful, natural reserve on the southwest side of Boulder, Colorado, Arden’s hometown.

Chautauqua is pronounced just like it sounds. If you don’t know how it sounds, it’s kind of like this: shuh-TAW-kwuh.

But Kelly, you may be asking, what is the history of Chautauqua Park? If you’re not asking that, you’re either a barbaric oaf of philistine mentality, or I just beat you to it.

I’ll just assume the best.

But to answer your question, the beginnings of Chautauqua Park can be traced back to an adult education program begun in the 19th century. The New York Chautauqua Assembly was organized in 1874 by clergyman John Heyl Vincent and businessman Lewis Miller. This educational summer camp was held on the shores of Chautauqua Lake, on the western end of New York State.

The program in this original Chautauqua Assembly, and in the spin-off Chautauquas, included lectures of both secular and religious content, as well as musical entertainment. Soon, Chautauquas were popping up all over the country, most in the temporary camp site setting, but a few in permanent buildings.

The Colorado Chautauqua, originally known as the Texas-Colorado Chautauqua Association, was started in 1898. It’s the only Chautauqua still in continuous operation west of the Mississippi River, and is the only one in the country that operates year-round.

The Association and the city of Boulder agreed to establish their Chautauqua near Boulder, if the city could provide ample acreage and felicitous facilities. Following a city bond election on April 5, 1898, and the appointment of a Committee on Parks on April 18, the Bachelder Ranch was purchased as the permanent site for the Chautauqua, and was promptly renamed Texado Park.

On May 12, construction of the Chautauqua Auditorium began, and on the Dining Hall a week later. Both were finished in time for the opening of the first Colorado Chautauqua season on July 4.

Obviously they had never heard of red tape!

Over the years, various other structures were built for administration, lodging, etc. The Chautauqua has seen its share of ups and downs over the last century. But it’s now a popular destination in the area. According to Wikipedia:

The Colorado Chautauqua gradually returned to its roots in the late 20th century, scheduling much more live music and a modest number of additional lectures. Jazz and bluegrass concerts were introduced, with good popular success. Guest performers have included composer-pianist Peter Kater, Native American flutist R. Carlos Nakai, Doc Watson, Hot Rize, George Winston, Bill Monroe, Lyle Lovett, Randy Newman, Bobby McFerrin, Bruce Cockburn, Suzanne Vega, Bela Fleck, Roger McGuinn, Loudon Wainwright III, Michelle Shocked, and the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, among others.

Besides these cultural attractions, Chautauqua Park also adjoins open space and trail heads that lead to the Flatirons and beyond, into the mountains. Chautauqua Park was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006, and is now a thriving cultural attraction.

Arden Chase spent one scene in Profile engaging in nefarious online hijinks in Chautauqua Park, but other times spent some quality time with his daughter, Lanelle. If you haven’t read it yet, well, that’s because it’s not out yet. But it will be soon. Watch for it on July 21.

Then you can see some of what Boulder is all about.

Right. Like that’s what you’ll be reading it for!