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Estimated 8,000 People Visit 32nd Annual Chautauqua in the Park
By JAY SAUCEDO / Contributing Writer 09/13/16 CT

What began as a small craft show 32 years ago has become a largely attended festivity that brings an estimated 8,000 people to the event. The event has attracted more and more vendors every year, and 2016 proved that trend gaining nine more vendors than the year before. "We had 126 vendors go through the application process this year and then we even had to process one that showed up at the gates..." said Narr. "So, this year, we had 127 vendor booths, and 25 traditional arts exhibits and that doesn't even include the food court area." Chautauqua event logistics is managed by the Chillicothe Area Chamber of Commerce, but vendors, exhibits and entertainment are decided by the Chillicothe Arts Council. "Chautauqua is a juried event," said arts council director, Mary Lou VanDeventer, "meaning all vendor applicants must meet a certain criteria to be able to enter a vendor booth". There are four jurors who examine the applicant's product, and then as long as the criteria is met, that vendor is allowed in to Chautauqua. The main criteria is that any product must be hand-crafted by the individual or group. There are no mass produced or manufactured products allowed to have a booth at Chautauqua.

CT Photos

One of those vendors was Barbara Lee of Princeton, with Creekstone Wild Bird Castles, the 2016 Best in Show Award winner. The bird houses are made of creek stones and themed with other decorative parts and built to stand up to weather and outdoors. According to Lee, Home Depot put in a request for a 25,000-piece order that was declined. "If I did that, it would become work for me," she said. "I want to continue to enjoy making them... I guess it's become art for me, too." People's Choice Award winner, Ma-Ma Jane's Creations, makes 50 different dry mixes that you can add to any dish to flavor it. Jane Walgren, a retired teacher, started the company to help developmentally disabled women. At one point, the women needed help and Mrs. Walgren had a decision to make at home that seemed to marry an opportunity. While providing for the disabled women, the company has now grown over the past eight years. Ma-Ma Jane's Creations are now sold in about 25 stores across the Midwest and have sold about 18,000 bags so far this year. You can find Ma-Ma Jane's Creations sold at the Martin House, here in Chillicothe.

Another exhibit was the traditional arts area at Chautauqua, where attendees could find booths for wood carving, basketry, spinning, knitting, felting, weaving, pottery, paper making and blacksmithing. The Missouri Dulcimer Co. provided a presentation about how the instruments are built, and even played a little for the crowd. The lost art of story telling reminded attendees of a time before video games and electronics. The traditional arts area provided a display of how these things used to be produced and the craftsmanship that was required to make them.

The children's activity area had plenty to do, from carnival games and rides, to bounce houses with many themes. The petting zoo is always great because it allows smaller children the opportunity to interact with animals in a controlled environment. Events of this magnitude don't go on without great entertainment. All of the entertainment for the Chautauqua was provided through the Chillicothe Area Arts Council. Eleven entertainers performed throughout the Chautauqua weekend, playing and singing songs from all ages and genres. The band "Gold Rush", kept your feet moving to the beat, while the Morton Sisters brought the 1940's big band spirit with their a cappella group.


Chautauqua in the Park: Creativity and Talent Showcased
September 14, 2015

C-T Photos / Catherine Stortz Ripley

CAPTION: Artisans stayed busy both Saturday and Sunday at Chillicothe's 31st annual Chautauqua in the Park. Many vendors said they were well-pleased with the event and some said this was the best year ever in terms of sales. The weather was ideal with plenty of sunshine and temperatures in the 70s.

With clear skies, temperatures in the 70s, and a wide variety of vendors, large crowds attended the 31st annual Chautauqua in the Park this past weekend. "With this weather, things have been crazy... super... wonderful," Mark Wisner, of Smokehouse Pottery 1856, said Saturday afternoon. "Business has been non-stop all day." Smokehouse Pottery, which makes and sells handmade signs, pottery, furniture, wood items, candles and potpourri, received the most votes in the People's Choice Award balloting process of the Chautauqua. The Chautauqua is more than just an art festival; it is a juried event, which means vendors must meet certain criteria before being allowed to sell their wares. The event is sponsored annually by the Chillicothe Area Chamber of Commerce and the Chillicothe Area Arts Council and is presented by Hedrick Medical Center. "We've had a great crowd, beautiful weather, happy vendors," said Crystal Narr, executive director of the Chillicothe Area Chamber of Commerce. "We had some vendors who completely sold out on Saturday."

The traditional arts area was a big draw for visitors with 20 different traditional arts showcased, including tinsmithing, spinning, rug hooking, metal forging, sock making, yarn dyeing, knitting, pottery, weaving, and more. The Mountain men exhibit was new this year, demonstrating how life would have been in the 1840s.

In addition to the craft and food vendors, a big draw for the Chautauqua is the lineup of local and area musicians along with the traditional arts area, presented by the Chillicothe Area Arts Council. The Chautauqua also presented entertainers, including a wide range of musical talent: Storyteller Shelly Long, The Gorsetts, Dammit Jim and the Rednecks, The Trio, The Rock N Country Variety Show, Dear Friends (Jamie Pauls and Mary Lou VanDeventer), Sean McNown, The Gorsett Twins, and the Mic-O-Say Dancers from the Boy Scouts of America.

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