The Great American Picnic festivities and fundraiser return this year with the alliterative promise of food, face-painting, fortune-telling and fun.
The annual event will be held from noon to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 15, on the front lawn outside the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall. Madam Divita will provide fortunes and the Thursday Morning Brass band will bring the tunes.
The event is the Alumni Association of the CLSC’s largest fundraiser. Twenty percent of the proceeds go toward funding scholarships for Chautauqua County high school students. This year, the scholarship program provided for eight students to live with a host family and experience Chautauqua for a week.
“That is the element of the day that makes it so meaningful,” said Richard Karslake, president of the Alumni Association of the CLSC.
There will also be a silent auction filled with “fun and unusual” treasures donated to the cause by Chautauqua community members, according to Caroline Bissell and Janet Wallace, silent auction co-chairs.
Items for the auction include a sandstone Stetson hat, collectible Bird, Tree & Garden Club plates and vintage border paper of Chautauqua buildings. There will also be antique CLSC “Chautauqua Readers” and historic Roundtable magazines dating back to the 19th century.
Out-of-print wooden collectibles of Chautauqua’s prominent buildings from the gallery Cat’s Meow will also be auctioned.
One more piece de resistance is a framed watercolor landscape of the historic ship, The Sea Lion, on Chautauqua Lake.
Local businesses have also made donations, and Bissell said she and Wallace are “grateful to the community for the unique and generous donations.”
Keeping with tradition, the food offered at the picnic will be classic American fare, including hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad and a bake sale. The event will happen rain or shine.
Karslake said the Great American Picnic is one of his favorite days of the season because it is for the “whole family to share” and “a great community atmosphere.”
Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns would agree: he included footage from the event in a short film he created for Chautauqua Institution, capturing the vibrant community atmosphere.
“I look forward to it because it is such a fabulous family event and involves people across all ages,” said Cate Whitcomb, Alumni Association of the CLSC executive secretary. “The kids love the games and the face painting, and the grown-ups love the food, the band and just plain relaxing on Sunday afternoon.”