NOW Generation’s fourth annual Summerfest draws biggest crowd yet

Katie Prechtl Cooke plays with young Summerfest attendees in the sand on Saturday, July 29, at the Youth Activities Center. Prechtl Cooke is chair of NOW Generation, an organization of young adults who volunteer to promote the Chautauqua experience. OLIVIA SUN/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Last Saturday morning, more people than ever turned out for the NOW Generation’s fourth annual Summerfest at the Youth Activities Center. Kids played in the sandpit by the lake as their parents hovered and socialized with one another, ready to grab any mischievous child who tried to make a dash for the stairs and into the lake. Inside, people enjoyed a continental breakfast and listened to the live music provided by local musician Jamie Smith from Porcelain Busdrivers.

The event, which started at 10:30 a.m. following the Old First Night Run/Walk, attracted the biggest crowd it’s ever had as people enjoyed the sunny weather, greeted old friends and made new connections.

“It’s a good way for people to connect,” said Carrie Oliver Zachry, NOW Gen advisory council member. “I think people are now looking forward to it.”

Katie Prechtl Cooke, NOW Gen advisory council chair, said she believes the high attendance is evidence of NOW Gen developing a real presence at Chautauqua as more people are learning about the group and all that it offers.

“We’re making some good connections with other people on the grounds,” Prechtl Cooke said. “I think we’ve been able to talk to a lot of new people, especially at the beach play dates.”

With Summerfest being the group’s final big event of the summer, the advisory board is looking to the off-season and is currently planning a weekend at Chautauqua for Oct. 14-15.

These off-season events are one of Zachry’s favorite things about NOW Gen. Zachry is one of two newest board members and enjoys the opportunity to give back to Chautauqua while helping people form connections within their age range. This summer she hosted weekly gatherings for young families during Weeks One through Seven at Timothy’s Playground near the Miller Bell Tower.

“Continuing to plan events to engage people while they’re on the grounds … (as well as) off-season events and activities for people to connect and enjoy Chautauqua (is what I’m looking forward to),” Zachry said.

The NOW Gen is a group of young adults ages 21 to 40 (although these ages are more guidelines than set requirements), led by an advisory council, who are looking to engage and connect with Chautauquans. The advisory council plans and hosts events throughout the season, works on increasing connectivity and engagement across this generation of Chautauquans and, in the last several years, has developed off-season involvement by hosting events around the country.

“It’s not an exclusive group, it’s not only for certain people,” Prechtl Cooke said. “It’s for everyone.”

For more information about the NOW Generation or to learn about ways to become involved, visit the Facebook page ( or contact Megan Sorenson, staff liaison, at 716-357-6243 or to sign up for the group’s e-newsletter.

Tags : Katie Prechtl CookeNOW GenNOW GenerationSummerfestYouth Activities Center
Meaghan Wilby

The author Meaghan Wilby

Meaghan Wilby covers the Lincoln Series in Applied Ethics as well as special lectures and programs, and works with the Chautauqua Foundation to cover development activities. Originally from New Zealand, she recently graduated from Allegheny College with a B.A. in English. She played four years of varsity basketball at Allegheny and was an editor for The Campus newspaper for two years. She can be reached at