Petersburg, AK

Petersburg, AK

Another amazing visit to an amazing town! We arrived in the 3 am dawn light at our camp, beautiful Sandy Beach Park and set up our tents and kitchen as the birds sang and the tide rolled slowly in. We we’re lucky to camp here, as it is not normally permitted, but the city made an exception for us. It’s not often Chautauqua comes to town. In fact it’s only happened once, 23 years ago.

On our first evening, a community potluck was held in our honor. A bunch of locals came out and we feasted, danced, and sang into the evening. One of the great things about the Chautauqua experience is the creative possibilities. We’re a very talented bunch, especially when it comes to music. So some people form little bands along the way to play music at events like this potluck, or on the Ferry, or anywhere along the way. Several members made a bluegrass band, picking away delightfully as the sun slowly slid sideways across the mountainous horizon. Other members made a Waltz group, which played next, as pairs of people danced away.

We marched into Petersburg in fine formation. The workshops were attended by hundreds upon hundreds of children, each one was packed, activities like magic, juggling, hooping, voice, ukulele, song swap, clowning, slack-rope walking, physical and spiritual health, history of Chautauqua, and even folding a fitted sheet are all workshops we teach. Plus a few more I can’t remember right now.

The big vaudeville show was completely sold out. A theatre packed with a cheering audience. At the shows end we received a raucous standing ovation. Another job well done.

We also visited another senior center for a community show. Those are truly special; a Chautauqua visit to these people really breaks up the day-to-day monotony with something, memorable, hilarious, and beautiful. They are just so happy to have us there.

The longevity of Chautauqua amazes me. It’s built to last.  Several of our members we’re on that tour 23 years ago as well as this one. They reminisce about how it’s similar and different. Some of the locals have fond memories of the occasion as too. So here we are again, retracing the route Chautauqua took back in 1992, fifty vaudevillians on a mission. Jugglers, acrobats, musicians, magician, bubblers, hoopers, singers, dancers, teachers, and general catalyzers for community hopping town to town, sharing there zest for life, for shared experience with real humans in the all present now, a chance to focus instead on the opportunities and interactions available in the moment. A chance to inspire something beyond the norm, to learn a new skill, to step out of your comfort zone and experience life, raw, real and visceral. To see that dreams can come true, all you need is to believe and to work at it. We are living proof.

But don’t be fooled, it’s not easy, oh no. Of course, it wouldn’t be so rewarding if it were easy. The fun is in the challenge, in stepping up, stepping out into the unknown and rising to every occasion. Camping and parading through rain or shine, waking up at 3 am time and again to get the show on the road. Living communally with 50 people, cooking, cleaning, teaching, sharing, singing, whining, crying, laughing, it’s all a part of the Chautauqua package. And it brings us closer, beyond all expectations, because you never know just what to expect. The experience of truly living communally is so far outside everyday life. Living in a house is isolating in comparison to this. This is tribalism. We have our isms and quirks, our group takes on a personality of its own, with highlights and low spots, issues and non-issues, glory and struggle, laughter and tears. We keep marching on.

Sincerely, Eli March

Salmon Feast!

Salmon Feast!

2-high Waltzing

2-high Waltzing

Bluegrass band

Bluegrass band

Carey Power!

Carey Power!

Juggling all the time!

Juggling all the time!

Saxophones on the Beach!

Saxophones on the Beach!

3-balls and a Poem

3-balls and a Poem

Potluck

Potluck

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Wrangell, AK

Most of us made it into this shot at the Wrangell log.

Group Shot at Wrangell log! Almost everyone is present.

Wrangell, AK

What a lovely town, the perfect size for our Chautauqua to make a truly meaningful impact. At a population of just 3,000, it feels even smaller and more intimate than that. Our 3 days there were filled with activities, and we quickly became friends with pretty much everyone in town.

We camped at City Park, a beautiful stretch of land along the waterside with a world-class view of the other islands across the Straight. On the last day, I stepped out of my tent into the shimmering morning light reflecting off the water and a woman driving through the park stopped in front of me and rolled down her window.

“Hi” I said, blinking the sleepiness away.

“I just want to thank you guys so much for coming here.” She said. “We’re a generous people here in Wrangell, but not like you are. You are truly generous and we just appreciate it so much. The whole town is abuzz right now. Really, just thank you.”

“It’s our pleasure. “ I said, and she smiled, rolled up her window and drove away.

The glow in her eyes told she was as sincere as sincere could be, and I knew we were accomplishing our mission to spread joy, laughter, education and entertainment, far off the beaten path.

Another local said that was the best show they had ever had in Wrangell, and the most packed the theatre had ever been. Yes! This is why we come to these places.

The big Vaudeville show we do is a truly momentous occasion, but it’s only one slice of the pie. We also did two parades, a series of well-attended workshops, community shows for the Senior Care Facility as well as the Wrangell Indian Association and we topped it all off with a community service project in which we cleared a hillside of brush that had overgrown the gravesite of Chief Shakes the fifth.

Connecting with the Tlingit people has been very special. One we again we presented a gift of a beautiful hand-sewn blanket from our tribe to theirs. Several of our members, both on and off tour have worked so hard to bring these intricate gifts to fruition. Not only that, but everyone on tour has contributed at least one stitch, making a true group gift. The Wrangell Indian Association received it with a small speech. They were honored we had come to their town and connected with them. As the Tlingit elder spoke, a feeling of magic fell over the room. The blanket will be hung on the wall of their tribal center to always remind them of this special visit and of kindness in the world.

Our First parade was a wet one! The sky continually sprinkled on us in that classic persistent Pacific Northwest fashion. Easy ups and umbrellas were brought along with moderate success. We marched on un-phased and remained in optimum smile mode throughout the parade and teaser show. It was a ridiculous and delightful occasion. We even marched through a couple grocery stores, band in full swing, juggle clubs flying and bubbles a blowing, a spectacle of spectacles in little tiny Wrangell.

Southeast Alaska is a truly beautiful place. The climate is more similar to the Oregon Coast than it is to the Interior of Alaska, which is not surprising when you look at the map and see that it is actually closer to the lower 48 than it is to Anchorage. We are in a part of the largest temperate rainforest in the world. The salmonberries are in full fruit, and we pick them by the basket load, piling it on everything from waffle cakes, to the scrumptious filets of fish we are continually donated by the friendly local people.

The sun sets around 11 o’clock, and rises at about 2:30 am, giving us about 20 hours of daylight each day. Sunshine makes a few brief appearances, but it’s generally overcast, with real rain only on our first day in town. The tides rise and fall before us like our energy levels.

The power nap has become quite popular as it always does after the first week. Cooking, cleaning, rehearsing, performing, parading, packing and pot-lucking make us tired little teddy bears by the end of the day. Tired with that sweet sense of satisfaction that only a full day can bring. That sense of accomplishment, of purpose, of knowing that the world is a little more joyful than it was the day before.

And so we left Wrangell on the midnight Ferry to Petersburg. Delirious and delighted, we arrived at our next camp at 3 am during sunrise at a beautiful sandy beach and forest, where our next chapter begins…

Stay tuned, for tales from Petersburg!

Sincerely, Eli March.

Map of where we are

We are here!

Sunset from camp

Juggle workshop and giant propeller

 

Wes teaches “Fire by Friction”

Chautauqua exhibit at museum

Our camp is beautiful!

Mural in downtown Wrangell

Old boat-wrecks at Petroglyph Beach

Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs at Petroglyph Beach.

These two teenagers have been going on Chautauqua their whole lives!

Somer Joe and Scarlett.

Petroglyph

Petroglyph

The 2-of clubs performs there juggling act.

The 2-of clubs performs their juggling act.

Annie and Jenna selling Chautauqua shirts!

Annie and Jenna selling Chautauqua shirts!

Godfrey demonstrates the tired little teddy bears.

Godfrey demonstrates the tired little teddy bears.

The show must go on! E-Z up keeps band members slightly drier in rainy parade :)

The show must go on! E-Z up keeps band members slightly drier in rainy parade :)

Fiona teaches the Ukelele Workshop

Fiona teaches the Ukelele Workshop

The flying Karamazov's perform their ridiculous ballet routine.

The Flying Karamazov’s perform their ridiculous ballet routine.

Can you see the elephant that Quinton is riding? Annabella shows off her rope swinging skills.

Can you see the elephant that Quinton is riding? Annabella shows off her rope swinging skills.

 

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Ketchikan, AK. The first stop.

This gallery contains 18 photos.

We floated into town at 6 am and filed off the Ferry, into our vehicles, and to the first camp. A playground built underneath a school on stilts. The Kitchen was set up, breakfast made, served and the morning meeting … Continue reading

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AKqua Chautauqua begins!

Alasqua Bound!

The boat came by and I got on, that’s when it all began! The band toots away behind me, filling the Ferry with music as we cruise northward towards our first Alasquan destination of Ketchikan.  It’s been a day of meetings, rehearsals, creations, and all the delightful busywork of preparing a 50-person vaudeville troupe for a month of parades, shows, workshops, and general survival. We’re busy little bees here in the New Old Time Chautauqua, and it sure is fun!

Your loyal blog monkey here missed the first few days of Chautauqua in Bellingham as I was busy getting my appendix removed. But I heard the shows we’re great. And guess what? I’m okay! The show must go on! So I start the events here, with our journey on the Ferry up to Ketchikan.

So there we were. Packing to leave our gracious hosts at the beautiful Lookout Arts Quarry and head to the dock. The plan was to send a first crew down to secure our place on the boat. We we’re sitting in the Greenbird, our passenger van, essential for transporting people around the towns we visit. “All Aboard!” and the key turns over…. Click. Click. Click. Nothing. The van won’t start. Yup, it’s a Chautauqua alright. We look around confused for a second. The mechanically engineered dive into the engine and began there fix attempts and…. alas, nothing.

“The Schzambulance!” I exclaim, and Fiona runs off to find Clay. Moments later the infamous woop woop of the Emergency Circus’s Schzambulance sirens announces his arrival at the scene. So we pile in and off we go! What a start.

All is smooth at the Ferry dock. They even let us board early to set up our own tent village. We securely duct tape our tents to the deck. Yes, duct tape. The Greenbird was fixed in the nick of time and makes it aboard. It turns out the bar is temporarily closed for this trip, BUT… they give it to us as our own little Chautauqua Headquarters! At night, some opt to sleep here instead of tents. By day it serves as the nucleus of activity for our hive of busy bees, creating, creating, creating.

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There I sit and write, scribing away my interpretation of this joyous journey. This lounge is transformed by us: sleeping pads and bags strewn about, instrument cases everywhere, sheet music, notebooks, water bottles, juggling balls, snacks and other Vaudevillian clutter set the scene. Hundreds of quaint bulbs hang from the ceiling, illuminating our little hideaway. The windows provide a view of the bow’s seating area, and the majestic scenery in front of that.  Our ‘Stumer Erin sews away, Eben leads the band through rehearsal, Kitchen Crew prepares our next meal.  An announcement comes over the PA, “Attention passengers, there are whales of the Starboard side.”

We run like giddy children outside to the rail.  Sure enough, humpback whales appear on the shimmering water, a spout, and another, and another! A tail, majestic as the landscape we cruise through appears and slides gracefully beneath the surface to unknown depths. We are filled with wonder, and return to our various activities.

The trip lasts for two days and two nights as we cruise steadily northward. Sliding through archipelago after archipelago. An evergreen dream of islands and trees, little mountains and waterfalls, the beauty is serene. Each day we have one parade across the deck of the oat, filling the ferry with music, juggling and joy. The unsuspecting passengers are delighted to have the surprise thrill of a 50-person vaudeville troupe and marching band aboard.

We arrive in Ketchikan at 6 am and begin our mission to spread education and entertainment wherever we go. But I’ll save all that for the next entry. For now we are about to depart this lovely town and head to Wrangell. The dishes are washed, the truck is almost packed, and yes my friends, we have another boat to catch.

Stay tuned for more updates from the road of the wonderful wacky world of Chautauqua!

 

Sincerely, Eli March.

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Heading to SE Alaska!

New Old Time Chautauqua has hit the Alaska Marine Highway and made it to Ketchikan! Follow along with reports from the road here on this blog, on our Facebook page, and with this interactive map of the tour! We’ll be in SE for almost 4 weeks this summer, so will post from the road when time allows…

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The 2014 New Old Time Chautauqua “KEEP THE FAITH” Summer Tour – July 16-August 4th

2014 tour group photo by Chris Leeming

2014 tour group photo by Chris Leeming

This year’s tour was a great success! We had fun, worked very hard, and traveled through some of the most beautiful countryside in the world!

As noted above this year’s tour was dedicated to our dearest friend and fellow Chautauquan, Faith Craig Petric. As a girl in Orofino, Idaho she had attended the annual Circuit Chautauqua that arrived mid summer to give six days of educational lectures, speeches, opera, theatre and light entertainment. In 1982 when Faith heard from long time friend, U. Utah Phillips that he was traveling with our newly minted Circuit Chautauqua, Faith, aged 67 at the time, jumped into her car and joined us on tour and then for every tour thereafter until she was 95!

Chautauquan, Fiona Worcester, created a beautiful poster for the tour which shows Faith as a girl looking down at the Circuit Chautauqua she is about to attend.

2014 Tour poster by Fiona Rose

2014 Tour poster by Fiona Rose

The 2014 tour was booked not long after Faith’s passing in November 2013 in the land of her birth. The towns we visited were Sandpoint, ID., Libby, MT., Eureka, MT. Hotsprings, MT., Orofino, ID., and Spokane, WA.

2014 tour route

The tour’s highlights were:

 SANDPOINT, IDAHO – July 15-19

Sandpoint, photo by Chris Leeming

Sandpoint, photo by Chris Leeming

We arrived at the beautiful home of our Sandpoint sponsors, Jerry and Becky Luther, during the day of June 15. That night we held our first band rehearsal. For the next two days we had endless band rehearsals, show rehearsals, mad costume inventing. Plus we got to know one another start orienting ourselves to Chautauqua daily life.

Stephen Bent (now O’Bent after he married out marvelous stage manager, Shannon O’Neil, later this last summer) was our musical maestro. He worked tirelessly, with great élan, and with infinite patience arrangeing endless bits for our acts and for our huge musical numbers.

At his initiative, the summer 2014 tour incorporated the ‘Anvil Chorus’ from Verdi’s opera ‘Il Trovatore’, which had been a staple of the Chautauquas of one hundred years ago. In addition to adapting both orchestral and choral versions of the piece, he invited local participants to join both our band and choir to perform the pieces in each town on the tour. This created a phenomenal way for local people to join in making our show truly a collaborative experience for us all.

Sandpoint’s mayor pronounced our visit as Chautauqua Week! Our Community potluck was held next to the Bonner County Historical Society Museum which had mounted our Circuit Chautauqua exhibit. Many New Old Time Chautauquans got to see it for the first time! Our community show was a hoot which was held at a school and attended by disadvantaged children. The parade was joined by local musicians and went right through downtown and down by the shores of Lake Pend Oreille. The workshops were held in a downtown park and premiered two new workshops.

Joanne Murayama, a New Old Time Chautauqua founder, gave a workshop titled, “Life Behind Barbed Wire.” It was a wonderful presentation based around her parent’s experience in the Japanese Internment Camps during World War II. The other was Paul Magid’s slide show lecture on the history of the Chautauqua movement.

The evening show this year was a themed one about the life Faith Petric and the history of Chautauqua. Paul and Amy Englehardt (known to some as Amy Bob, lately of the acapella group, the Bobs), MC’d. It was a wonderful mix of vaudeville, theatre, opera (more on that later) and music. Opening night was a huge success replete with a standing ovation at the end. The show was performed at the venerable and much loved Panida (pronounced like Canada) Theatre. We raised $5,000.00 for TIPS (Transition in Progress Services) an organization that provides transitional housing and program management services to homeless families and victims of domestic violence in Bonner County! WOW!

LIBBY, MONTANA – July 20-22

Libby Care Center, photo by Skip Adeedoodah

Libby Care Center, photo by Skip Adeedoodah

The town of Libby is the country’s largest super fund site. For 80 years the W. R. Grace Mining Company mined vermiculite from a nearby mountain and Libby became a company town. Unfortunately, the vermiculite was laced with asbestos fibers. The company found out that they were mining a cancer causing product 40 years before they were stopped by the government. They sold the vermiculite as insulation all over the country. But even worse they never told their workers. In 1999 the truth was publicized in a Seattle Post Intelligencer investigative report. Ever since then Libby has been fighting a losing battle against cancer. The EPA has been removing all the soil from town and taking out all of the vermiculite that the company gave to schools for free. Today the largest employers in town are the hospital and the EPA respectively.

We arrived to a town that after 15 years was still in denial, suffering from the mine closure and the sickness that continues to plague the population. It was interesting in that at first people didn’t know what to make of us. We camped on the grass of the grounds of a school that had been closed because of its vermiculite insulation. We set up our tents and had a wonderful community potluck but it was a lightly attended event. The next day we had 7 community shows plus a show and lecture at the Lincoln County Heritage Center. After a parade at the hospital we divided into 2 groups and headed out to various convalescent homes and senior centers. It was a long and meaningful day. That night it clouded over and cooled down and by parade time the next day it began to rain. We thought about canceling the parade but Karl Meyer, Chautauqua Board President, came up with a great idea. Get 4 Chautauquans to hold each leg of an easy up and put some of the band under it. The full band was able to fit under two easy ups and we had one of those great improvised parade highs. That was the moment the town fell in love with us. We had also done parades in a grocery and hardware store. The workshops were held outside (the rain had stopped) and in the old school. This time there were loads of people in attendance. The show was sold out. In fact, it was the most tickets they had ever sold to an event at Memorial Auditorium. It was an emotional affair with another standing ovation at the end. One of the highlights of the show was during the finale, during our version of Verdi’s “The Anvil Chorus” the floor in front of the stage rose into the air with out hunky anvil strikers rising heavenward!

Parading in the rain, Fighting Instruments of Karma Marching Chamber Band/Orchestra, led by Stephen O'Bent, photo by Phina Pipia

Parading in the rain, Fighting Instruments of Karma Marching Chamber Band/Orchestra, led by Stephen O’Bent, photo by Phina Pipia

EUREKA, MONTANA – JULY 24-26

On the July 23 we drove the next day to our Montanan Chautauquan Pom Collin’s home. We had a great day off (despite a fast moving thunder storm). We had a big dinner at a nearby lodge and sang the anvil chorus, with the band singing their parts as well.

The next day found us in rainy and cool Eureka for the community potluck. It was an easy-up moment with local venison and great conversation with the locals. We had been there only 7 years before so many people remembered Faith and our last visit. That night we gave a wedding shower to Stephen and Shannon O’Bent. Loads of fun! We also had a new arrival in the person of longtime Chautauquan, Alexandra Craig, Faith Craig Petric’s granddaughter, who had flown all the way from Ireland!

The community show was held at the Mountain View Manor Good Samaritan Center. It was a lovely event and you could see that music really stirs something in people even when it seems nothing else will. The next day we paraded through town which was caught on video by a drone pilot. The band went down Main Street right to Riverside Park at the Historical Village run by the Tobacco Board of History. Our amazing sponsor, Rita Collins, had really got the word out as people showed up from all over the county to participate. That night we gave the show at the beautiful Lincoln County High School Auditorium. A great time was had by all!

HOT SPRINGS, MONTANA – JULY 27-29

The People's Center, photo by Chris Leeming

The People’s Center, photo by Chris Leeming

Hot springs is an isolated little town of 500 eccentric people. There is no cell service and they don’t want any. There are hot springs and, in fact, where we camped is a wonderful ranch style motel-resort retreat called Las Alamedas. Thank you to our host, owner, Paul Stelter! The Hot Springs committee of about 12 people, spearheaded by Janell Clarke, really whooped it up for us. The Potluck was amazing and filled to the brim in the Kootnai-Salish Tribal Meeting Center in Hot Springs. The next day we went to Pablo, Montana where we did workshops and a show at the Tribal People’s Center. Clay Mazing and a gang of Chautauquans went around the village streets hawking the show and sure enough a bunch of folks showed up. The parade was filled with local groups, the workshops which were held downtown on Janell’s property was also filled with local workshoppers. The show, the only one held outdoors, was done in Hot Spring’s Style, set up on a narrow stage, under the trees and, eventually, the stars.

OROFINO, IDAHO – JULY 31-AUGUST 2

The Anvil Chorus, photo by Jon Crandell

The Anvil Chorus, photo by Jon Crandell

After a day off (a day off of travel, a hike for a visit to the Jerry Johnson hot springs and a show we do every year for ourselves, called the Ben Show) we arrived at Faith’s home town of Orofino, Idaho. It was thrilling to be there. We camped right in Orofino City Park next to the Clearwater River. That night after a wonderful potluck hosted by the Orofino Rotary Club we held a moving memorial service for Faith. The band played a New Orleans funeral march down to the banks of the river. There were many moving testimonials which finished with some heartfelt words from Faith’s granddaughter. After her testimonial she walked into the river near whose banks Faith had been born and spread some of her ashes while Paul juggled torches over the flowing stream until they sputtered out.

The community show day was packed and astounding! We first went to the Idaho Correctional Institution and played to 400 prisoners. This was arranged (with loads of paper work, background checks, etc..) by our community show maven, par excellence, Anne Gavzer. A great connection was established between us and the prisoners, as something like us had never been performed at the prison before. We then went over to the nearby State Hospital North, a psychiatric facility. There too connected well with the patients. After a short break we drove over to the nearby Nez Perce Tribal Center. A highlight there was a waltz we had with children!

The parade the next day was fabulous as we were joined by the local VFW chapter who led the parade in uniform, flags hoisted high. We started right at the spot where the old circuit Chautauquas were held. Speaking of which the museum exhibit at the Clearwater Historical Society was amazing! The workshops were equally stunning as there were many local ones including a fascinating workshop/demo of flint knapping,. The show was held at the Orofino High School auditorium. With local musicians at hand, and Faith making appearances in the show (7 Chautauquans girls and women played Faith at various ages in her life) it felt like we had touched many hearts, including our own, in the sold out hall with a standing ovation!

 SPOKANE – August 3

We packed up, drove and set up at the lovely Bing Crosby Theatre in downtown Spokane. It was a fitting last send-off in a stunning old vaudeville house. This was a benefit also for the local public radio station, KYRS.

CLOSING CIRCLE – August 4

Closing circle, photo by Chris Leeming

Closing circle, photo by Chris Leeming

The next morning was our last all together. We all felt so close to each other and there were tears, ideas for the future, many tired yawns and lots of laughter.

~Paul Magid, tour organizer

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Chautauqua’s Fourth of July in Darrington

This past summer, NOTC joined in the Fourth of July festivities in Darrington, WA, which is quite close to Oso, the location of the enormous landslide that killed many in a small community. Here is bandleader Eben Sprinsock’s report of the day:

Driving to Darrington, we passed the Oso slide area on the newly rebuilt
highway. Awesome devastation, a plain of mud, trees uprooted, buildings
gone.

In Darrington, spectacular setting. Mountains jutting up so close to the
town. We gathered at the Old School Park, where we met one of the local
organizers, Matthew, and a bunch of folks setting up a stage and
decorations. (Matthew also joined the band on trumpet.) We set up the band
chairs and had a quick band rehearsal. Then we put on our finery and headed
for the starting location for the parade, about 5 blocks away. Some of us
walked, others piled into Karl’s pickup truck.

We found our parade location, which was pretty close to the front, just
after a mounted contingent and a couple of old-timey cars. We waited around
for about twenty minutes, juggling and playing, until it was time to go.
Then we formed up, I blew the whistle, and we marched off playing The New
Chumleighland March. We paraded down a main street, waving to the folks who
lined both sides of the street. After we left the main part of town we
discovered that the horses and cars in front of us had disappeared. They had
traveled so much faster than us that they had turned some corner ahead of
us and we could no longer see them. As we marched Tim ran ahead to try to
find the correct route back to the park. All turned out fine as we made our
way back to the park, and then quickly set up for our show.

Some of us had set up a lunch of sandwich makings while the rest of us were
parading, and we chowed down while setting up. About half-an-hour after the
parade arrived at the park we were ready. The band snuck to the back of the
park and then paraded up to the stage to start the show.  The show was enthusiastically
received by the many people who showed up. After the show the folks from
Darrington set up a free hamburger lunch, and many of us mingled with the
locals.

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The Dreaded Emotional Last Post

I’ve been dreading the flood of emotions I’ve anticipated that I’ll feel while writing this, the last post of tour 2014. If that wasn’t clear from the title. But, it’s time. And where better to break down and lose it than on a crowded Amtrak. So this is the time and this is the post and it is being written here and now. Apologies to the poor passengers surrounding me.

Our last real stop of tour was Orofino, Idaho. Right when we pulled up, we felt the over 100 degree weather hit us and then we set up our tents. Which was about as fun as it sounds. But, thankfully, we were camped in a lovely park right on the banks of the Clearwater river. On our first night there, we had a wonderful potluck with the community right near our little tent village in the park. My personal favorite part of our living arrangements in Orofino was the walk into the park from town–passing all of the bold “NO CAMPING IN PARK” signs right into a sea of tents. The community members were lovely and friendly and welcoming and the potluck went swimmingly.

After dinner, we all prepared for one of the defining events of the tour. We held a memorial ceremony for Faith on the edge of the Clearwater river, on which she was born nearly 100 years ago. It was beautiful–filled with memories, speeches, and songs. It reminded us all why this specific tour was so special. It provided an opportunity for Chautauqua as a whole to celebrate Faith and everything she’s done and the many ways that she’s touched us all.

The next morning we went to the prison, which someone else could speak to because I was unfortunately unable to attend due to my youth. I did unanimously hear that is was a great show and an amazing experience though. Which didn’t help me feel any less bummed about missing it. But that afternoon we went to the North State Psychiatric Hospital, which was actually one of my favorite experiences of tour. We put on a great show for them and they thoroughly enjoyed it. The workshops we gave after didn’t have the hugest turn out, but everyone I talked to there was so thankful we had come and complimented the show endlessly. After that we went to see the local museum exhibit on us, which was in my opinion the best one yet. It was full of so much about Faith’s life that not many of us knew and it gave a great big picture look at the links between us and the Chautauquas of the past, Faith being one of those links. We spent that evening at the Nez Perce reservation, where we put on a show for mostly just children–the best possible audience. It was absolutely heartwarming to hear all of their laughter and cheers.

The following day was our parade, workshops, and show. The parade was one of the most fun yet, with the community lining the streets many members joining us. We stopped to do a teaser show at an assisted living facility in the middle of the parade, and it turned out to be one of the most attended teasers we’ve done all tour because so many parade spectators followed us to it. Our workshops also had a great turnout (despite the boiling heat), with a delicious picnic style lunch available. The Orofino workshops were unique because the community also provided us with some of their own workshops, my personal favorite being belly dancing. It was awesome to see creative community members educating each other. It all culminated into our show that night. Right as the show started, so did thunder, lightning, and rain. Poor Josh Williams was left all alone at camp for the beginning of the show while the wind set our tents rolling, blew the dish racks over, and flipped the easy-up upside-down on top of the kitchen trailer. The show was amazing though, with a packed house (so packed that there was a frantic rush to set up more chairs) and a smooth performance (as smooth as Chautauqua shows ever get).

The next morning it was time to leave for our not-real last stop, Spokane. I call it not real because we got to our campground, set up our tents, and went straight to the theater to preform our show. It was a great show though. The theater was historic, huge, and beautiful, which set a climactic, important, emotional, and appropriate tone for our last show. We performed, some cried (especially singing “Pleasure to Know You” for the last time in a show), and we ate ice cream in the theater. After that, we headed back to camp and held our final campfire. It was a fitting last night with very little sleep for some. By “some” I include myself and don’t necessarily recommend that final night, team no-sleep approach. On the last night of Chautauqua, we should all be aggressively reminded that we will have to pack up in the morning.

When the morning did come, the packing was not the hardest part in the least. The closing circle was long and emotional as expected, but after all of the kind, community-minded words were said came the hard part. I hate the last day of tour, no one should have to say that many goodbyes in an hour. But we did, and we went our separate ways. At this point, I’d like to say that I haven’t choked up yet writing this and I’m going to stop now so that strangers don’t see me cry.

So, in parting: it was an amazing tour. Filled with adventures and memories. Thanks to everyone who helped make this tour as incredible as it was

Group picture right before our last downtown parade in Orofino taken in front of the lot where the old Chautauquas used to put up their show tents.

Group picture right before our last downtown parade in Orofino taken in front of the lot where the old Chautauquas used to put up their show tents.

. There was so much vision behind it and so much hard work put in to make everything happen. I’m certainly tired, homesick, and a little done with living with 60ish other people, but in general, I wish we had another month. I will miss you all so much, and I’ll see you next summer.

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Slightly late Eureka/Hot Springs wrap-up

Parading through downtown Eureka.

Parading through downtown Eureka.

Skip leads an acro workshop in Eureka.

Skip leads an acro workshop in Eureka.

Clay eats Doritos while he, Harmony Lyrics, and community members take Toes' tap workshop.

Clay eats Doritos while he, Harmony Lyrics, and community members take Toes’ tap workshop.

Scramble preforms at an assisted living facility in Hot Springs.

Scramble preforms at an assisted living facility in Hot Springs.

Jeremiah, Daniel, and Rio pose during their rooftop juggling.

Jeremiah, Daniel, and Rio pose during their rooftop juggling.

The Shazambulance quests to reservation housing near Hot Springs to try to wrangle up an audience for our show at the People's Center.

The Shazambulance quests to reservation housing near Hot Springs to try to wrangle up an audience for our show at the People’s Center via megaphone and rooftop juggling.

The successfully wrangled audience at the People's Center.

The successfully wrangled audience at the People’s Center.

Steve prepares to parade as Wonder Woman in Hot Springs.

Steve prepares to parade as Wonder Woman in Hot Springs.

Annie gleefully juggles during the Hot Springs parade.

Annie gleefully juggles during the Hot Springs parade.

A Hot Springs community member models her abstract art in the parade.

A Hot Springs community member models her abstract art in the parade.

Most of their band's instruments on the pool table at Fergie's during a short break.

Most of their band’s instruments on the pool table at Fergie’s during a short break.

Gillen, Skip, Jeremiah, and Clay venture out after the range/rage cow.

Gillen, Skip, Jeremiah, and Clay venture out after the range/rage cow.

Clay faces off against the range/rage cow.

Clay faces off against the range/rage cow.

"Skip's in a good position." -John Cloud

“Skip’s in a good position.”
-John Cloud

Fiona's "my pj pants just got wet" selfie during the intense cow hunt.

Fiona’s “my pj pants just got wet” selfie during the intense cow hunt.

All cozied up in the lodge watching the Ben Show.

All cozied up in the lodge watching the Ben Show.

A very odd on-land water aerobics act in the Ben Show.

A very odd on-land water aerobics act in the Ben Show.

Right as we arrived at Pom’s beautiful homestead outside of Eureka, Montana, the clouds started to roll in and thunder rumbled across the ginormous sky. Lightning shortly followed, as captured by Stephen Bent in a previously posted picture. We should all thank him for the trouble he went through to get the shot; the following day I witnessed him deleting hundreds of the same picture of cloudy skies–failed attempts at the beautiful lightning picture. The lightning was then followed by pouring rain which some of our crazy community members actually hiked/ran miles through to get to our dinner that night, which was provided for us by a nearby lodge. The food was amazing and the hospitality heartwarming, so to thank our host we preformed an acappella version of the “Anvil Chorus” from our show this year (link to audio below).

Our schedule in Eureka was a little abnormal. Instead of the usual Chautauqua method of preforming community and teaser shows, giving workshops, and possibly attempting some renegade parades for promo on our first couple days in a new place followed by our downtown parade and big show on our last day, we did our big show first with workshops and community shows the following day. We did have a potluck the night before our show though, which a host of community members did make it to, even though it was outdoors while it was cold and raining. Our big show didn’t have the largest audience, but there was also a rodeo the same night. It’s hard to beat out a rodeo with a circus show in Montana. Anyways, the crowd we had was amazing and involved and excited. We gave them a great show.

The days at Pom’s house were spent swimming in the pond and enjoying the beautiful scenery while the nights were filled with campfires. One night, the future O’Bents had their Chautauqua bachelor and bachelorette parties which first consisted of spiritual bonding and blessings and later a keg. Probably the most thrilling part of our Eureka stop for me was an actual cow wranglin’ quest which took place during one of the evenings. Our fake vaudeville cowboys (John Cloud and Clay) cowboyed up and were joined by several others in herding a lost “rage cow” that had wandered onto Pom’s property back to it’s rightful place. After a thrilling hour and a half trekking through tall grass, forests, and swamps, the cow was chased over/through an electric fence. Seeing a full grown cow get over/through a currently off electric fence was truly a hilarious sight. The entire quest was a true Montana experience which made my visit there feel complete. And as the perfect gift just as we were packing up to leave on our last day in Eureka, Faith’s granddaughter Alex arrived from Ireland to join us for the rest of the tour.

In Hot Springs, we stayed at the Alamedas spa and resort, which had actual hot springs right there for our use. Although not many of us made use of them seeing as how most days it at least hit 100 degrees. The tiny town seemed unpromising at first with the heat and how accustomed to being next to cold water we had grown by then, but our first night there we had the largest turnout for any potluck in recent memory with a line out the door of the building and down the block. We guesstimate that roughly 75 community members showed up. For a town with a population of 500, it was thoroughly impressive. And Hot Springs didn’t stop impressing us.

The next day, we went to the People’s Center on the Kootnei-Salish reservation for workshops, another potluck, and a show. The workshops and potluck had a slim crowd, so some of us made and emergency mission in our resident emergency vehicle to reservation housing with a megaphone and some rooftop juggling to wrangle an audience. The quest succeeded and our show was attended beyond expectations.

Our downtown parade there was the largest yet, nearly tripled in physical length from community involvement. The major community inputs to the parade were a long, painted dragon, a troupe of about 20 people with pinwheels attached to electric drills, and (my personal favorite) about 30 elderly ladies with pool noodles doing water aerobics-esq dance moves in synchronicity. Following our parade were workshops in a beautiful park which mercifully had misters misting cold water down from many trees and tents. That night, we had our show in the very same park. It was heavily attended and felt much more personal than our other shows because the audience was so close to us, all sitting on blankets, and the stage was slightly informal. It was a wonderful night, and it didn’t end there. After the show, the band paraded (with an acapella number included in the parade) to a local bar called Fergie’s and played there until it closed. At one point in the night, they offended the ears of all the locals in the bar and made all of us nearly die laughing by all switching instruments and attempting to play “Teddy Bear’s Picnic.” All in all, it was an amazing night and in the morning the bar tender even stopped by our camp to say her goodbyes and thank us for livening up her work week.

Our day leaving Hot Springs was this tour’s “day off” although with the morning spent packing it still wasn’t exactly a day off. But after we had packed and departed, we headed back to Idaho and spent the evening at Jerry Johnson’s hot springs. It was lovely and hilarious to see a herd of Chautuaqua folk flood the remote and usually private springs. One of the locals there asked with eyes wide, “Where are all of you people coming from?” That night was the Ben Show, held at the Lacsha Lodge which was hilarious as usual. Even with much less preparation than previous years, the acts were wonderful, ranging from beautiful songs to land swimming aerobics routines.

With most of our stops completed, the tour is winding up. But still, look out for more. And I’m sorry, but as we come closer to the end I’m positive my posts will become sappier and sappier.

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Eureka Pictures

Harmony singing her Poodle song at a late night campfire.

Scramble outside of a Eureka grocery store getting ready for a parade.

Scramble outside of a Eureka grocery store getting ready for a parade.

Clay rides a seahorse at a Eureka playground.

Clay rides a seahorse at a Eureka playground.

Warming up outside of Mountain View Manor assisted living facility in Eureka.

Warming up outside of Mountain View Manor assisted living facility in Eureka.

The sign outside of Mountain View Manor displays just what this 2014 tour is about: walking by Faith.

The sign outside of Mountain View Manor displays just what this 2014 tour is about: walking by Faith.

Fiona and Clay teach a ukulele workshop on the porch of a historical log cabin.

Fiona and Clay teach a ukulele workshop on the porch of a historical log cabin.

Rio entertaining a Eureka girl at our workshops in the historical park.

Rio entertaining a Eureka girl at our workshops in the historical park.

 

Lightning storm on our first night at Pom's property in Eureka.

Lightning storm on our first night at Pom’s property in Eureka.

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