With a gathering of family, friends and Children’s School colleagues, the Jessica Trapasso Pavilion officially opened last Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
With the financial support of the Hermance Family Foundation — represented at the ceremony by Kris Hermance and her daughter, Emily Spahr — a new pavilion was built and dedicated to Jessica Trapasso, a beloved member of the Chautauqua community, who passed away in 2015.
Wife to Kit Trapasso, director of Children’s School, as well as mother to Christopher and Anne Trapasso, Jessica loved Chautauqua and believed in the power of its community.
The pavilion dedication was attended by Hermance and Spahr, the Trapasso family, as well as friends and guests, including Institution President Michael E. Hill and Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education.
The ceremony began with remarks from Geof Follansbee, CEO and vice president of development for the Chautauqua Foundation.
“It is a great testament to what occurs in this place,” Follansbee said. “I’m happy to be able to say that I’m a product of Children’s School.”
As guests settled in for the ceremony, Ewalt took the stage to discuss the importance of the pavilion and Children’s School.
“For almost a hundred years, Children’s School has been a child’s first experience (at Chautauqua); it really pioneered the concept of nursery school education,” Ewalt said. “This school immerses the youngest of Chautauquans in an environment that encourages exploration, play and connecting with nature; fosters a sense of community and it fills the morning with music, drama, arts, reading and special activities built around the weekly theme.”
Ewalt recognized the generosity of the Hermance Family Foundation and the level of influence Children’s School has on so many Chautauquans.
“In other words, for many, Chautauqua begins here in this space,” Ewalt said. “Thanks to the incredible generosity of the Hermances, under this roof, the Jessica Trapasso Pavilion provides the youngest Chautauquans a stage to perform, a classroom from which to learn, a laboratory for understanding nature and a safe space for which to build friendships.”
Hill then shared his love for Children’s School and the importance of the programs it provides for Chautauqua. He thanked Kit Trapasso for his continuation of Jessica’s love and dedication to the Chautauqua community.
Kit Trapasso took the podium and offered his thanks to the community.
“On days like today, I wish I had more words to say thank you,” Trapasso said. “To say that I’m grateful to you doesn’t seem to scratch the surface of my feelings this afternoon. My heart is so full as I look at this incredible space and to see the people that mean so much to me and my family, who meant so much to my wife. My family and I will never forget this day, this act of generosity and devotion, to provide this space where art and fellowship can be cultivated.”
Following his father, Christopher Trapasso thanked the Hermance family and those in attendance before the cutting of the ribbon. The Trapassos, Hermance, Spahr and Hill took scissors from the podium and began the countdown to the ceremonial ribbon cutting.