This year’s Great American Picnic features two major additions: tossed salad on the lunch menu, and a rain location.
While the weather has been temperate on the day of the event for the past few years, Sunday’s forecast had event chair Ellen Chamberlin planning ahead.
Rain or shine, the picnic will happen.
If the weather is nice, the picnic will take place as usual from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday in front of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.
If it rains, the event will move to its alternative location: Seaver Gymnasium. Chamberlin said this means the hot dogs for the event will be boiled instead of grilled.
After a few years off, Chamberlin is once again serving as chair of the event. She takes over for Matthew Rogers, who chaired the picnic last year.
“I’m back for more fun,” Chamberlin said.
Chamberlin is hoping for nice weather, she said, because the Great American Picnic is “one little thing that is just fun.”
The Great American Picnic is sponsored by the Alumni Association of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle and is its biggest fundraising event. Picnickers purchase tickets that are used to buy food and participate in the picnic’s various events.
This year’s picnic features the return of the silent auction, which was absent from last year’s proceedings. A Chautauqua desk, which Chamberlin described as “the laptop of the 1920s,” is one of the items up for auction this year.
Other goings-on include the book sale, face painting, music from Thursday Morning Brass, docent tours of Alumni Hall and Pioneer Hall and the fortune-telling Madame Davida.
Mary Lee Talbot will also be there to sign copies of her new book, The Heart of Chautauqua, which chronicles the history of the CLSC.
The proceeds from ticket sales are used to bring high school students from Chautauqua County to the grounds for a week and to maintain the CLSC’s historic banner collection.
Chamberlin said bringing in students who may not normally visit Chautauqua Institution is a good way for them to experience the place and “think about it as a resource for their future.”
It’s also rewarding to see each CLSC class figure out what role they want to serve moving forward, Chamberlin said. The most recent graduating class tends to help the most with organizing the picnic.
“It’s a way of getting to know the organization and what it does, and how to preserve the history,” Chamberlin said.
But for Chamberlin, it’s the sense of community that permeates the event that makes it special.
“It’s just a fun two and a half hours,” Chamberlin said. “There’s music, there’s food and you get to see people and get a chance to sit down with them across the picnic table.”