Suzanne and Jeff Watters are two longtime Chautauquans who take full advantage of the Institution’s programming every summer. They join thousands of others who attend the 10:45 a.m. lectures, take master classes on a number of topics and, overall, enjoy the atmosphere and natural splendor of the grounds.
But in particular, one moment never fails to stand out to them.
“When I’m in that room — that room being the Amphitheater at 8:15 p.m. — and the energy level is just on high because of Alison Krauss walking to the stage, or the Avett Brothers about to come on, … there’s nothing like it,” Jeff Watters said.
The Watterses are underwriting the Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo and Melissa Etheridge concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Amphitheater. Suzanne, who grew up in Buffalo, regularly visited the grounds on Sundays, while Jeff, originally from Connecticut, first came after moving to Jamestown in his early 20s, and meeting Suzanne, who first brought him to the Institution.
After relocating to the Pittsburgh area, they began revisiting the Institution for short periods of time in the summers — spending long weekends on the grounds, for example, which then turned into weeklong stays. Now, they are dedicated Chautauquans of about 20 years.
With their family — yes, that includes their English bulldog — and love of Chautauqua in mind, they decided to purchase a house on the grounds about a decade ago.
“I think one of the motivations (to buy a house) for us was that we became a pet family,” Jeff Watters said. “As we started to fall more madly in love with the Chautauqua value proposition, we realized, ‘Boy, if we really want to take full advantage of (Chautauqua), and continue to keep our pets, we’re going to have to figure out a better housing situation.’ ”
Since acquiring property and staying for the duration of Chautauqua’s summer season, Suzanne and Jeff Watters have enjoyed the wide range of programs and intellectual stimulation that Chautauqua has to offer.
“We love to go to the 10:45 a.m. lecture,” Suzanne Watters said, “and we do that pretty much every day that we’re here. … I’d say our second favorite thing is the (popular entertainment in the Amp) — we love the idea that we can just walk over Thunder Bridge, and not too far after that is the concert on Friday or Saturday night.”
Suzanne Watters has also enjoyed exploring artistic activities such as journal-making and pottery.
There’s a path for anyone and everyone at Chautauqua, Jeff Watters said. The couple — who have been active philanthropically at Chautauqua and are members of the Bestor Society — decided to underwrite the Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo and Melissa Etheridge concert to do their part in amplifying the efforts of Chautauqua staff.
“We have loved the work that Deborah (Sunya Moore, vice president of performing and visual arts) and her team have done over the past few years to really, I think, push forward on the more contemporary popular entertainment acts,” Jeff Watters said.
The Watterses want to help provide quality entertainment to the Chautauqua community, in addition to bolstering Chautauqua’s brand image through sponsoring performances of well-known artists like Etheridge. They hope to continue program sponsorship into the future through their investment in the Chautauqua Fund, and ultimately do their part in advancing the holistic experience Chautauqua provides every summer.