At 10:30 a.m. last Saturday, August 4, at the Youth Activities Center, NOW Generation invited friends, family and the community to its fifth annual celebration of Summerfest. Chautauquans of all ages flocked into the YAC directly from the Old First Night Run/Walk, still in their custom race T-shirts and ready to engage with other community members while children enjoyed summer games. NOW Generation also provided breakfast sandwiches and a live band for everyone to enjoy.
“I love that I meet so many new families every time I come (to Summerfest),” said Russell Bermel, chair of the NOW Generation Advisory Council.
While the sunny day, food and games entertained kids and the young at heart, Bermel and Katie Prechtl Cooke, former advisory council chair, stressed that Summerfest is a time to build community.
“We feel (Summerfest) captures everyone,” Prechtl Cooke said. “You can be a single person that came down for a breakfast sandwich, or you can be the grandparents who brought their kids down.”
Striving to build community is one way Prechtl Cooke said Summerfest has changed over the years. She said this change reflects NOW Generation’s growth as an organization.
“I think (NOW Generation) has become a more strategic (and) thoughtful organization,” Prechtl Cooke said. “The council (now) asks themselves ‘to what end?’ Why are we having Summerfest? We’re having Summerfest to build community.”
Connecting the younger generations at the Institution is one of NOW Generation’s goals. Made up of Chautauquans between the ages of 21 and 40, NOW Generation seeks to continue the Chautauqua experience now and into the future. The group is led by an advisory council which plans and hosts events like Summerfest. It aims to bring all community members together and promote civic engagement at the Institution.
The group is active both on and off the grounds. Over the past two years, the NOW Generation has held annual “CHQ Near You” gatherings around the country on the same date, usually in early spring, where members get together in the off-season for a day that is Chautauquan in nature. This may include a picnic, trip to a museum or other activities of the like.
On the grounds this season, advisory council member Mhoire Murphy was instrumental in putting Summerfest together, returning to the grounds for the weekend specifically to help at the event. She has been a member of NOW Generation for many years, focusing on any recreational or social planning the group does.
“We’re really excited about the turnout this year,” Murphy said. “It’s fun to get everyone together. This is one of our events over the course of the summer that’s a little more family-friendly, so it’s great to see the new generations come along.”
For more information about the NOW Generation or to learn about ways to volunteer or get involved, visit the Facebook page (facebook.com/NOWGenCHQ) or contact Megan Sorenson, staff liaison, at 716-357-6243 or firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for the e-newsletter.