CPOA eyes new communication platform, clarifies tax revenues

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The Chautauqua Property Owners Association will roll out a new interface and operating system to allow two-way communication between the CPOA and its members early next year.

The platform — dubbed the “CPOA Platform” — is expected to be unveiled in January 2020, and be fully functional by next season. The CPOA has been working with a third-party developer on the project for about five months; however, the concept has been in the works for over a year, according to CPOA Member-at-Large Paul Ritacco.

“We reviewed multiple, different types of platforms, and we’ve come up with one that we believe will truly meet the needs of the time, as we bring our membership into it, in terms of being able to communicate well, efficiently and timely with our membership,” Ritacco said. “This platform will allow us not only to communicate to them, but allow them to communicate back to us.”

The platform — which will be a mobile-friendly website — will allow users to access exclusive resources, including an updated property owner directory, message boards, newsletters and important internal links. The message boards will be narrowed to specific interests, like supporters of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra or the School of Dance, or region-specific chats.

“We are trying to create an online community,” said CPOA Secretary Erica Higbie.

Higbie said the CPOA is in a stable financial situation to pursue the large-scale project. The association does not yet know if it will have to increase CPOA member dues, which are currently $20 annually.

“We’re trying to increase benefits to our members, and this is a platform that’s going to enable us to do that,” said Richard Parlato, chair of the CPOA subgroup, Property Owners Who Rent. “We think that the benefit package that we present eventually will offset any conversation around costs and cost increases.”

The third-party developer employed by the CPOA adheres to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which protects citizens’ data and privacy, meaning the CPOA Platform will be highly secure, according to Ritacco.

Ultimately, the purpose of the new platform is to consolidate information and provide ease of access to its users. Ritacco said that, aside from being dues-paying CPOA members, users will only need an email address to access the site.

“Technology today is being designed to be easier, so we’re trying to capitalize on that,” he said. “We’re trying to keep it very simple.”

The CPOA recently clarified tax revenue streams, as well, following confusion at a Porch Chat on Aug. 7. Chautauqua Institution does not receive any tax revenue from property owners’ county and town taxes, according to data from the Town of Chautauqua.

“A number of property owners are under the mistaken belief that the Institution is the recipient of a lot of real estate taxes, and thus do not understand why the gate passes are so expensive,” said CPOA President Paul Perry.

Based on a property assessed at $300,000, home owners pay $6,196.27 in annual taxes — $0 of that goes to the Institution.

“As you can see from the distribution of the real estate taxes paid, the Institution receives none of those taxes,” Perry said.

However, some of that $6,196.27 does go to Institution subsidiaries: about 0.68% per $1,000 assessed value goes to the Chautauqua Fire District; about 1.27% per $1,000 assessed value goes to Chautauqua Utility District, which supplies water, sewer and lighting to the Institution. About $300 — based on a $300,000 property — goes to the Town of Chautauqua.

The largest tax — 9.31%, or $2,793 — is distributed to local schools. Medicaid makes up about 4.2%, and the county tax accounts for nearly 3.60%. The community college received 0.62%. These numbers are based on the tax rates as of February 2019.

Jennifer Stitely Joins Staff as Director of Gift Planning

Jenny Stitely shown Tuesday July 30, 2019 in the Development Offices of the Collanade serves Chautauqua as the newly created position of the Director of Gift Planning. SARAH YENESEL/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

New development staff member Jennifer “Jenny” Stitely arrived at the Institution just two days before the 2019 summer season started, but that didn’t stop her from making major strides in her position.

Stitely serves as the director of gift planning, succeeding Dusty Nelson, who retired in May of this year. She has always known about Chautauqua but had never physically visited the grounds before June.

“I had known about Chautauqua from my college days,” Stitely said. “I was not unfamiliar with Chautauqua, I had just never been on the campus before.”

When Stitely first arrived, she said that it felt just like coming home. She was happy to be back in the arts environment. As a voice major in college, Stitely said she enjoyed the opera program and that the art form was important to her. She also loves attending the symphonies and lectures.

“It’s unbelievable, … the caliber of people who are coming in to present and and the level of intellectual discourse from the people who attend programs,” Stitely said. “This is just such a unique community of intellectuals, of people who want to make a difference, who are having hard conversations, who are tackling tough issues, and I love that. I love this whole idea of having a civil discussion about the things that are most pressing. It’s been amazing.”

Stitely has 18 years of experience in fundraising. She has served in a variety of capacities within the field and always had the intention of working in planned giving. Stitely first started out in health care fundraising, working for community hospitals. She most recently served as the divisional director of planned giving for the Salvation Army, and held that position for about four-and-a-half years until she saw the vacancy at the Foundation.

“When I saw this position become available — and having always had a passion for art, history, language, education in general — it was too good to pass up,” Stitely said. “Seeing that I could have the best of both worlds — I would be here for the summer to experience the season, then I would be back home the rest of the year — it was a perfect fit.”

Stitely lives in Westminster, Maryland, with her husband, Tim, and their four children. During the balance of the year, Stitely will work from Chautauqua’s Washington, D.C., office. She said that this position appealed to her because of the setting, as well as her love for planned giving and the role that it plays in fundraising.

“I got into this particular aspect of fundraising because I think it’s an opportunity for people to really tell their story and to share with future generations who they are and what is important to them,” she said. “If I can be a part of helping to write that story, that’s a huge reward.”

As far as her position, Stitely is excited to take Chautauqua to the next level through philanthropic programs and planned giving. She hopes to explore the new strategic plan and continue to lay a foundation that will help the Institution flourish.

“I’m looking forward to growing the planned giving program,” Stitely said. “I think the work that’s been done before now has been great and has laid a solid foundation. As we consider what the future holds for Chautauqua, it’s great that planned gifts can be a part of that whole concept of transformational philanthropy.”

Stitely said that she is thrilled to be serving in this position. Chautauqua’s intellectual environment inspires her and makes her even more excited for what’s to come.

“It’s been an incredible experience,” Stitely said. “You have so much talent collected in this little spot in Western New York, it’s really so unique. You just have to see it, there’s no way to describe it without being here.”

Incoming Board Chair Candy Maxwell Talks Hopes for Tenure and Strategic Plan Work

Candy Maxwell, shown Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, is the incoming chair of the Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

Chautauqua Institution is opening a new chapter led by new faces, new initiatives and new plans. Helping to spearhead this new direction is incoming Board of Trustees Chair Candy Maxwell, who, in October of 2018, completed eight years of service on the board. 

Maxwell is a strategic adviser by trade, with more than 30 years of experience in business, leadership, governance, policy and strategy. Most recently, Maxwell served on the Strategic Planning Working Group, a 13-member committee who worked for 18 months to formulate the 150 Forward strategic plan.

Maxwell’s tenure marks the first female board chair in the Institution’s nearly 150-year history. Her term begins Oct. 1, when she’ll take over for outgoing, term-limited Chair Jim Pardo.

How did you discover Chautauqua Institution?

My husband and I started coming here in 2001, actually. He introduced me to the Institution — he actually worked here while he was in college. So we started coming here, and like many people, we came first for a week and then two weeks, and just kept on building up over time.

I just almost instantly grew to love the place for everything it has to offer. It’s really become a red thread that has been part of our life since that time. It was a place that, for me, gave me all the opportunity for lifelong learning, but also a place where I could really relax and unwind, reflect on and examine how I wanted to show up in the world.

It’s been a very important part of both of our lives for a number of years.

What’s your elevator pitch to people who have never been to Chautauqua?

Chautauqua is a unique place that brings together important conversations around essential issues of our day, but explores them in a way that engages all learning and experiences of the four pillars, taking a look at it through thought, leadership and debate and discussion through the arts, through recreation and even religious studies.

It’s a multidimensional, multifaceted way of thinking about the world, experiencing the world and, at the same time, a place in which you can connect with family and friends in a very meaningful way — just the environment itself lends itself to that kind of an experience. You slow down and can be with the people that really matter to you.

What does being board chair mean to you, and how would you describe your role?

I’m incredibly honored to be serving in this role. I, just last year, completed eight years of service on the board of trustees and have an enormous amount of respect for the work that we do and the importance that we play in the overall functioning of the organization and the strategy of the organization.

Coming in as board chair, for me, being able to continue much of that work and to do so in an expanded leadership position in a time that’s very important for the Institution, is deeply meaningful. We have a robust, dynamic strategic plan that is really future-looking and that really examines the role of the Institution as we move forward. I was fortunate enough to have a role in that work that led up to the final strategic plan.

I think as board chair, I think of there being two major responsibilities: to establish and to support an effective and well-working relationship with President Michael E. Hill and to make sure that there is that communication and partnership with the board and with senior leadership within the organization. I think also it’s to ensure that we exercise good governance with respect to our oversight function and that we fully leverage the talents — the extreme talents — around the board table with respect to the trustees, and that we really use all of that in a unique way of guiding the Institution forward, overseeing the strategy and strategy implementation and making sure that in the president, we have great leadership that’s going to bring the organization to that point where we see success as we’ve outlined in the plan.

How have you been involved with the strategic plan prior to your appointment to board chair, and how will you be involved with it during your tenure?

I was involved in a group that was put together by current Chair Jim Pardo to work in great detail on the strategic plan itself, so a lot of that was taking everything that we heard from the community last year from the forums and using that, as well as our own assessment of the environment and the unique attributions of Chautauqua, to come up with a strategic plan. So I was on the working group that was heavily involved with that and finally brought the plan to the board for approval back in May.

As I look forward, one of the things I’ve been doing this summer is chairing a working group that looks at the way in which we’re going to implement the strategic plan, specifically acting as advisers to the president’s team. Particularly, we’re working with Chief of Staff and Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Shannon Rozner, who will be closely involved in the implementation of the strategic plan to make sure that there will be appropriate mechanisms and overall approach in the way we’re going to identify strategic initiatives, evaluate them in their context of the plan and monitor and oversee their implementation.

That’s been a major effort of my own, as well as this group, during this summer. Our work will continue into the fall with respect to the way in which the board should oversee that implementation. Again, this is not to look at specific initiatives — it’s really to make sure that an infrastructure and an approach is in place in the organization that will yield effective initiatives as we move forward.

In the fall and into my first year, the implementation itself is obviously one of the highest priorities; and in that context, we’re really looking at how initiatives are going to be coming to the board for consideration, how we’re going to make decisions around those initiatives in terms of prioritization and sequencing and funding, and then how we’re going to actually monitor them and maintain oversight of them on an ongoing basis. That will be a major effort as we get into the fall and into early next year.

In addition to that, one of the areas that I’ve been focused on quite a bit is making sure that we have effective infrastructure and effective governance around the addition of the development function within the Institution. Specifically, we have a development council, which is, I think, a very important group on the board — it’s made up of trustees, as well as Foundation directors; and then myself and Tim Renjilian, (incoming chair of the Foundation board of directors), who I very much look forward to working with, will also be part of that group.

I foresee a lot of effort going into this first year of really working through the steps that are necessary to establish good governance, good oversight of the development function and also the fact that it’s such an important objective within our overall plan. I see that as really being a major area of emphasis in this first year as well.

What are your hopes and goals for your first year?

I think, for me, what’s important is that we have a board that fully leverages the talents of the board members, that people are able to contribute in ways that are meaningful for them, but also really important and essential for the Institution. That includes empowering committees to do the work of the board, establishing good relationships between the board and the staff and establishing good mechanisms for overseeing the work of the Institution and practicing our role as trustees in that. That includes what we need to see as a board to believe we’re practicing good oversight. How do we function as committees, how do we preserve and build upon the successes we’ve had in the past several years and the financial stability we’ve been able to achieve?

That means that the board as a whole, and then each individual trustee, is going to need to be attentive to those dynamics, particularly as we move into the implementation phase of the strategic plan. That’s really my hope — that we are able to build on, what I think is, a highly effective board and continue to strengthen our contribution to the Institution through our oversight and governance.

How do you hope to see the Institution evolve over your tenure?

It really is reflected in the strategic plan; I really do hope that we can continue to improve upon the summer assembly experience — through the guest experience, through the programming, through the offering of our other pillars — to be the best we can be and, of course, to look at ways we can share the experiences of Chautauqua as a convener out in the broader world. I think if we can become known, in no uncertain terms, as that convener, as that party that can bring together diverse views and have a conversation, … I will consider us to have made increasing significant mark in the nation.

I think that at the same time, I would love to see increased diversity in terms of intergenerational diversity, as well as racial, ethnic and other types of diversity — that’s such an important element of who we are and something that’s obviously very important for us. As we move forward,  I think (we need) to be able to reflect upon on the sustainability of this place, the ability to be able to find our support — not only from our own revenue from the summer assembly season — through increased philanthropy of all sorts, as well as other earned revenue sources that we have only begun to pursue and to look at. My hopes are really not different from those outlined in the strategic plan. I think we have a very aggressive set of goals by 2024, and so we have a lot of work to do and we need to get to work in order to make that a reality.

What does being the first woman board chair mean to you?

I really appreciate and honor this role I’m playing as the first woman chair of the (board of trustees) and I have also been so grateful for the excitement that’s been expressed by the community in terms of my election. The support I’ve received already, before I’ve come into this role, has oftentimes been overwhelming for me, in a very positive way. I take this role as the first woman very seriously and also feel that I am prepared to take on this work. I celebrate with the community. I think this is a really important development, and of course, I fully intend to live up to those expectations.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

I think for me — obviously, like many people —  making a difference, but in a way that I can experience it largely through other people and through place and through working with and through others. I really enjoy that — that’s one of the things I really enjoy about coming into this position, is that the work that is to be done, is to be done through the expertise of others. For me, it’s about a constant zeal for learning and also a desire that I have to do that in community, through and in partnership with other people.

As far as this new role that I have, the ability to engage and to create and to dream and to make things happen with and through others is really what motivates me.

Jamestown Wegmans Food Markets Funds Beach Boys Concert


Wegmans Food Markets’ Jamestown location opened 24 years ago. Every year since its opening, the Jamestown Wegmans has supported annual concerts at Chautauqua Institution, including recent performances by artists such as Sheryl Crow and Alison Krauss. This year, Wegmans is sponsoring the Beach Boys concert at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, August 21 in the Amphitheater.

“We want to make community investments where we have stores,” said Ryan Salvo, manager of the Jamestown Wegmans. “We’ve had a long-standing relationship with the Institution, and recognize the importance of having a place where people from around the world can gather, learn and be entertained by some of the most respected people of their craft.”

Many loyal Wegmans customers are fellow Chautauquans, and that has inspired the store to continuously support the Institution.

“We have so many loyal customers from Chautauqua that support our store every day, so this is a great way for us to say ‘thanks’ and give back,” Salvo said.

The Beach Boys, a Chautauqua favorite, will be returning to the Institution for an evening of summer fun. The iconic band has created a torrent of hit singles and has sold tens of millions of albums. Their music has influenced countless artists and has made a major impact in the world of popular music. They’ve launched a series of chart-topping songs including: “Surfer Girl,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “I Get Around,” “California Girls,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “Good Vibrations,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and more.

For more information on sponsorship opportunities at Chautauqua, contact Tina Downey, director of the Chautauqua Fund, at 716-357-6406 or

Institution Administrators Wrap Up Talks of Strategic Plan; Look Toward Implementation


As the season winds down, Institution administrators are wrapping up the 150 Forward strategic plan weekly information and listening sessions.

The 150 Forward strategic plan is a series of four key objectives and cross-cutting imperatives to “position Chautauqua as a stronger, more sustainable institution,” according to Laura Currie, chair of the Strategic Planning Working Group. Currie, along with Institution President Michael E. Hill and board Chair Jim Pardo, led the eighth Strategic Plan Information Session on Thursday afternoon in the Hall of Christ.

“Strategic planning has morphed … into a new type, which is much more visionary, much more (big picture) and has the opportunity for periodic reassessment and tweaks, as you go along through the passage of time,” Pardo said.

The four key objectives hit at the Institution’s areas of opportunity: optimize the summer season; expand Chautauqua’s year-round convening authority; diversify revenue and drive a comprehensive; science-based solution to Chautauqua Lake’s declining health.

Underscoring these objectives are cross-cutting imperatives: strategic partnerships; mobilization of technology; talent and labor solutions and IDEA.

Shannon Rozner, chief of staff and vice president of strategic initiatives, and Parker Suddeth, a consultant hired by the Institution, have spearheaded the weekly IDEA  — inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility — Listening Sessions this season.

Per the input of Chautauquans, Rozner and Suddeth further defined IDEA at the meeting last Monday afternoon in the Hall of Christ: “Accessibility is being invited to the table; diversity is having a seat at the table; inclusion is having a voice; and equity is having your voice heard at the table,” Suddeth said.

At the listening session — where Rozner posed questions designed to facilitate discussion — Chautauquans honed in on elitism and suggested the Institution host a mentorship or orientation program for newcomers. 

Currently, Rozner is working with a strategic plan implementation group and the board of trustees to set metrics for 2024 — the Institution’s 150th birthday — and to define trustees and community members’ roles in enacting the plan. Additionally, Rozner said the Institution is actively planning to hire full-time IDEA personnel to build on the work from this season.

The next IDEA Listening Session will be at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, August 20 in the Hall of Christ; the next Strategic Plan Information Session will be at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the Hall of Christ. The final Master Plan Information Session will be at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 21 in the Hall of Christ. Additionally, Chautauquans can voice concerns, leave comments or ask questions about the plan through the online forum at

Retired Surgeon Sidney Holec and Volunteers Lead Weekly ‘Stop the Bleed’ Courses at Chautauqua Fire Hall



Saving a life is as simple as A.B.C. — alert 911, identify bleeding and apply compression — according to retired general surgeon Sidney Holec.

At 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, August 20 as he has every Tuesday this season, in the Chautauqua Fire Hall, Holec — along with Chautauqua Institution volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians — leads “Stop the Bleed,” a national awareness and education campaign, training bystanders to help in bleeding emergencies.

Stop the Bleed is a 2015 initiative of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the American College of Surgeons. As of 2017, over 30,000 people nationwide have taken the course; more than 125 Chautauquans have taken Holec’s course so far this season, he said.

“Dying from a stoppable bleed is a common cause of death,” Holec said. “If you’re on the scene, you can stop the bleeding and stop (someone) from going into shock. There’s a point after losing so much blood, even if (they) make it to the hospital, you can’t bring them back.”

This training is extremely timely as the United States is experiencing a pandemic of mass shootings, Holec said. In just the last month, more than 30 people were killed in mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio; dozens more were injured.

In the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, Holec said several people died from stoppable bleeds; scores of lives were saved using compression during the 2017 Las Vegas shooting when a gunman opened fire on a crowd of concert-goers, killing 59 people and wounding over 500. 

“It’s sad that we’re at this point,” Holec said.

Compression requires applying intense pressure to cut off blood circulation to a wound. Holec’s class teaches two techniques: packing a wound and using a tourniquet. A tourniquet is fastened 2 to 3 inches above a wound — avoiding joints — and tightened and twisted until the bleeding ceases.

The same effect of a tourniquet can be replicated with a number of common household objects, according to Chautauqua Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jessie Briggs, including a shoelace, the band of a bra, a belt, lanyard or shirt. The objective is just to wrap it tight enough around the injured limb to reduce or cut off circulation.

“If they’re not screaming and yelling because it hurts, it’s not tight enough,” he said.

If it’s a deep wound or gash, Holec said to pack it down to the artery against the bone with gauze, coated in a clotting agent, or any available material, and apply direct pressure.

According to the American College of Surgeons, hemorrhage is the most common cause of preventable deaths in trauma and accounts for approximately 40% of trauma-related deaths worldwide.

“We’re all potentially exposed to major trauma,” Holec said. “And not everybody can be saved — they may have lost so much blood that even if you get a tourniquet on, it’s not enough. But at least they have a chance.”

At Final Meeting of Season, POWR Discusses ARB Guidelines, ALU Regulations


Property Owners Who Rent — a subgroup of the Chautauqua Property Owners Association — held its final meeting of the season Wednesday afternoon to discuss Architectural and Land Use Regulations.

The meeting — held in the Presbyterian House Chapel — was led by Vice President of Campus Planning and Operations John Shedd, who currently doubles as the Architectural and Land Use regulation administrator.

“(ALU) regulations are about trying to protect your property value and the community, as well as protecting the National Historic Landmark (designation),” Shedd said. “With that comes responsibility on the part of the property owners and on the part of the Institution. You — the property owners — are stewards of your property.”

All construction to buildings on the grounds must be reviewed and certified by the Operations Office, however, if projects require a variance from allowable limitations they must go before the Architectural Review Board — a board of trustees committee. Roof, mechanical and structural work is reviewed by the Town of Chautauqua code enforcement officer.

To have a project approved, a certificate application must be completed and returned to the Operations Office with appropriate documents. Then, the project can either be reviewed by an administrator or, if it falls outside of ALU regulations and requires a variance, it is sent to the ARB, which meets five times a year and holds meetings open to the public.

The 2013 revised regulations outline a number of zoning guidelines, which vary between the five districts designated by the ALU booklet. Such guidelines include: the ratio of impermeable to permeable surfaces on a given property; maximum building heights; square footage ratios; acceptable building materials and tree removal practices. Specifics are outlined in the booklet, which is available online or in print at the Operations Office in the Colonnade.

Currently, Shedd’s office is working to update the 2013 regulations, he said. The updated version will not be an extensive overhaul of the existing regulations, but rather an edit; a timeline for when the regulations would be updated and available to the public is to be determined.

Shedd said the Institution is trying to incentivize historical preservation of homes by making ALU and ARB bureaucracy “easier and quicker.”

“We understand the need for modern convenience, we understand the need for low maintenance projects at your house,” he said. “We encourage you as the property owners to do as much as you can to maintain your historic property. … That also improves your property value, so if you are maintaining it within the guidelines of historic preservation, that is probably to your advantage.”

Additionally, POWR Chair Richard Parlato announced the themes for next season’s POWR meetings: the CPOA’s new communication platform; security, rules and regulations; and the 150 Forward strategic plan and how it may affect property owners who rent.

Week 9 Letter from the President

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Dear Fellow Chautauquans,

Welcome to the ninth and final week of our 146th Assembly. I cannot believe that we’ve come to our final days of the season, but we are going out in style, to be certain. This week, we welcome one of Chautauqua’s most beloved artists, thought leaders and friends, as we explore “Race and Culture in America with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center.”

The intersection of race and culture creates a unique vibrancy to American democracy, often channeling and challenging the ugly effects of racism, bigotry and inequality, past and present. In this week, we examine the different ways that race and culture shape and enrich our society, and how being responsible consumers of culture, regardless of our different backgrounds and tastes, matters to who we are as citizens and as an American community. We open and close the week with renowned trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, who explores race and culture as a testing ground for the principles of American democracy. 

In addition to Wynton providing context and wise words for the week, we are so very fortunate to be able to experience his artistry and that of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in various performances. He has always been one of my very favorite jazz artists, and I cannot think of anyone better to help us round out our summer assembly season. 

In our companion Interfaith Lecture Series, we explore “Race, Religion and Culture.” It has been observed that racism is one of the most disturbing of historical cultural phenomena — speciously scientific, privileging some and denying value to segments of the world’s populations. This week we will explore how racism became enculturated, and will look for ethical realities, understanding and cultural healing. 

And in addition to these thought-provoking journeys, we bring back, for the third year in a row, our Chautauqua Food Festival. This year we’ve added more vendors than ever, including the ever-popular return of food trucks on Bestor Plaza; our own on-grounds restaurants sharing and highlighting their cuisine; and libations of all kinds. In so many ways, it’s a week-long block party, and all of our neighbors are invited. 

Some other special things to watch out for this week (as if everything above wasn’t already a full plate): 

I’m so grateful to welcome back to Chautauqua the Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. I was fortunate enough to work with this prayerful man for several years when I served the National Cathedral; he served at that time as Canon Pastor and director of its Center for Prayer and Pilgrimage.

My mom and brother are excited for two of our last popular entertainment concerts, with The Beach Boys on Wednesday, and Pat Benatar, Neil Giraldo and Melissa Etheridge on Saturday. Come hear some “Good Vibrations” at the Amphitheater with us!

We have had an incredible season in our Chautauqua Literary Arts program. Our director of literary arts, Atom Atkinson, has a gift for highlighting talent, right before the writer wins a major award or prize. This year they went one further, selecting Joy Harjo as a Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle author right before she was named United States Poet Laureate, the first Native American to be so honored and acknowledged. You won’t want to miss her presentation on Thursday, as she features in her poems the joys and struggles of the everyday played against the grinding politics of being human.

And lastly, our closing Sacred Song Service on Sunday, this year under the theme of “Camp Meeting is Over,” gives me a special chance to close the Assembly with one of my very favorite traditions: Three Taps of the Gavel. Please join one last time this season as a community to share in this special ritual of farewell. 

Now, enough about farewells. We have a packed week ahead of us. And in keeping with our food festival, let’s agree to “eat, drink and be merry!”

Contributors to Miller Edison Cottage, Garden Recognized for Philanthropy


On Tuesday, July 30, community members were invited to the Miller Edison Cottage and Garden in appreciation of their generous philanthropic efforts to preserve and restore the historic cottage and surrounding environs.

The cottage, built in 1875, is named after Lewis Miller, co-founder of Chautauqua Institution. His daughter, Mina Miller, was married to Thomas Edison. Edison, along with the extended Miller family and numerous dignitaries, frequently visited the cottage.

Mina Miller Edison hired Ellen Biddle Shipman, a pioneer landscape architect of the 1920s, to design the cottage’s garden. Shipman designed gardens for prominent families such as the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and the Astors, along with public landscape projects, such as the Sarah P. Duke Garden at Duke University. She also designed a “Moonlight Garden” for the Edisons’ winter home and for Henry Ford’s house in Fort Myers, Florida.

When Mina died in 1947, the cottage went to the family’s estate and was deeded to Nancy Miller Arnn in 1951. It was made a National Historic Landmark in 1966, and has had many visitors. In 2015, thanks to the philanthropy of Tom Hagen, the cottage was purchased by the Chautauqua Foundation from Ted and Kim Arnn, the children of Nancy Miller Arnn. In the time since, several community members have generously stepped up to support the ongoing care and maintenance of the cottage, as well as an extensive restoration of the garden, a major spring and summer 2019 project for Chautauqua’s gardens and landscape crews.

These contributors were thanked at the July reception with a warm welcome from Geof Follansbee, CEO of the Foundation and vice president of development.

“I want to thank all of you because it’s because of you that we are here and that this garden is in the process of coming to full life,” Follansbee said.

He then read a note from Betsy Burgeson, supervisor of gardens and landscapes, who was unable to attend the event.

“Words cannot express the gratitude I have for all the support you have given to this once-in-a-lifetime project,” Burgeson wrote. “What an opportunity your generous donations have provided to me, the gardens crew, but above all else, Chautauqua Institution.”

Follansbee introduced some of the upcoming plans for the garden, such as planting lady slippers and fringed orchids. He also presented a book that is located inside of the cottage that recognizes all of the donors who have contributed to these projects. Follansbee closed by thanking Hagen for his generous gift and welcomed Marta McDowell, garden historian, to speak.

“I’d like to tell you all that you are here for a birth, and it’s the birth of a garden; and I’ll tell you a little story that someone told me,” McDowell said. “Any garden takes three years to really show itself. Year one, it sleeps. Year two, it creeps. And year three, it leaps.”

She said to keep that in mind because the community is going to see extraordinary things happening in the garden in the coming months and years. McDowell was asked to say a few words about the original designer of the garden, so she gave a brief history of Shipman.

Ted Arnn, lifelong Chautauquan, former owner of the Miller Edison Cottage and great-grandson of Lewis Miller, was among those in attendance. He said he thinks the new improvements are fantastic and that Chautauqua will appreciate everything that the cottage and gardens bring to the grounds.

“They really did a beautiful job, (Burgeson) and her crew, and they had the original plans to work from and they really did try to follow that quite accurately, so it’s really going to be nice,” Arnn said. “I think that between the history and the appreciation of the gardens and the environment in general, I think it’ll be very useful to have this.”

Angela James, president of the Bird, Tree & Garden Club, provided remarks after McDowell and noted that BTG offered public tours of the garden each week this summer.

“If Marta walked us through the early years, I’m going to fast-forward us to the 21st century,” James said. “After the generous gift from Tom Hagen to the Foundation, as well as the gifts from all of you, the documents from the Miller Edison household and the archives started to get thoroughly reviewed, and what emerged was the discovery of the original plot map.”

She then explained how experts in Shipman design were hired to review the plans and make recommendations. The recommended plant list meets modern requirements, which take into account restrictions around invasive species and what’s on the New York State “do not plant” list.

“That’s the expertise and incredible work ethic that Betsy (Burgeson) brought to the actual plan,” James said. “The final plant list was agreed upon, the budget, the hardscape and implementation plan was funded and thanks to your generosity, you made it happen.”

James offered her thanks to Burgeson for all of her work on the garden.

“This garden is healthy, it’s wisely planted and well cared for,” James said. “We can’t say enough about Betsy and her crew and the fact that this unique garden completely diversified Chautauqua’s offerings, so thank you.”

Follansbee closed the event by offering a special note of thanks to the volunteer committee that served as advocates for the project and were instrumental in the fundraising efforts over the past couple of years.

“In conclusion, I would just like to raise a glass and raise a toast in appreciation and gratitude for the wonderful future that’s ahead over the next several years as this garden grows and after it’s done ‘creeping,’ ” Follansbee said, “I know it will bring great pleasure to all of Chautauqua for all the years to come.”

edison-cottage to learn more about these projects, or to make a gift or pledge of support. Please contact
foundation@ or 716-357-6243 with questions.

Preparing for Retirement, Al Akin Reflects on Time as Institution’s Chief of Police


Some years ago, Al Akin boarded Willie Nelson’s tour bus at Chautauqua Institution to chat.

“Not too many police officers get a chance to get on my tour bus there, Mr. Al,” Nelson told Akin.

But Akin, now 66, is no average police officer, and spent time talking with the guitar-wielding legend; during Nelson’s stay, Akin even tracked him down at the Chautauqua Golf Club about 20 minutes before he was supposed to perform on the Amphitheater stage.

As the Institution’s chief of police for 41 years, Akin has served through at least 10 major renovations to the Amphitheater complex, five Institution presidents’ administrations, countless performances and lectures, policy changes and challenges. Akin is set to retire this fall, and the Institution will transition current Director of Campus Security and Safety and former Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace into the chief role.   

“You prepare for the worst, and hope for and present yourself the best,” Akin said. “That’s what this whole job’s about: preparing for the unknown, preparing for the worst, and hoping for the best.”

The Akin family has lived in the Western New York region since as early as 1806, when Matthew Prendergast and his wife, Abigail Akin, moved from Pittstown, New York, to the west side of Chautauqua Lake. Around 1890, Al Akin’s great-grandfather moved to Chautauqua, making the county the family’s longtime home. Now, the Institution is a kind of home as well; Al Akin’s former wife, Tena Dills, serves as the Institution’s benefits specialist, and their son, Adam Akin, serves as the Chautauqua Volunteer Fire Department’s fire chief.    

Describing Chautauqua as a “place all its own,” Akin reflected on his more than four decades of service to the Institution and growing up near Chautauqua Lake — a lake he hopes to see more of in retirement.   

Akin worked for the navigation unit of the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office in the 1970s, during his summers between college semesters. Upon his 1978 graduation from Alfred University and completion of coursework at the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Academy, Akin was hired as Chautauqua Institution’s chief of police that year. During his career, Akin said the nature of police work, and security work in general, has “changed dramatically.”

“I remember the old guard, the generation before me, wearing breeches and knee-high police boots, but nobody was carrying an assault weapon, or wearing bulletproof vests or SWAT gear,” Akin said. “I look at it as a sad statement of a society where we’re having to react to that type of thing.”

More frequent and intense violence, Akin said, “is a strong signal that social values have really gone south,” citing the El Paso, Texas, mass shooting on Aug. 3; the Dayton, Ohio, shooting on Aug. 4; and Chicago shootings in the last month.

Akin himself as been instrumental in “saving so many people and properties” at Chautauqua, according to John Shedd, the Institution’s vice president of campus planning and operations. Shedd, who has worked with Akin in varying capacities since 2011, said Akin is often one of the first officers to respond to calls on the grounds in cases of fires and other emergencies.

Akin’s national service includes traveling to New York City in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, to assist in search and rescue efforts. This fall, he’s been invited to place a wreathe on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Oct. 20. And in all situations — whether local emergencies, national crises or talking with Chautauquans on benches and brick walks — communities are at the core.

“Community service is what the job is all about — always has been,” Akin said. “Community service and community responsibility is the basis for everything. You can’t demand respect from people unless you show respect, too.”

To best serve the Chautauqua community, Akin said he has fought for updated medical equipment over the years, including defibrillators in police cars in the 1980s, a medical car transformed from then-Institution President Daniel Bratton’s former vehicle and snow tires for police vehicles. Akin said he is proud of the Institution’s increased dedication to providing emergency medical assistance on the grounds, as well as the teams of people he has worked with.

Gerace, who started as Chautauqua’s director of campus security and safety in January, described working with Akin as a “blessing.” Gerace has known Akin since his own beginnings in law enforcement, the two men attending Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Academy at the same time in 1978.

Starting out as a summer security officer at the Institution around the time Akin was hired as chief of police, Gerace was then hired by the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office in 1979, after graduating from the Sheriff’s Academy; he served as county sheriff from 1995 until 2018.

As Gerace prepares to head the Institution’s police, he said he has been doing “a tremendous amount of listening, learning and asking questions,” working closely with Akin, police officers and Chautauquans.   

“Al has been so gracious, and he is a wealth of knowledge,” Gerace said. “He has an unbelievable memory for people and things and places, so it’s been a great relationship as I’m learning and fitting into the new position.”

With Akin’s particular dedication to decreasing the turnover rate of seasonal security employees, Gerace said Akin has been able to foster a more long-term culture of employment among Chautauqua’s police officers by attracting highly qualified candidates and retaining them from season to season.

In his time as sheriff, Gerace said he often joked with Akin: “Thanks for training these people, because we’re going to hire them away from you.”

Akin has worked closely with Shedd and consultants hired by the Institution to work through recommendations for Chautauqua’s security master plan; in those efforts, Shedd said, Akin has been especially helpful in bringing a Chautauquan’s perspective to the conversation. And Akin’s service is about more than his uniform and law enforcement experience — Akin “embodies Chautauqua.”   

“Al has been an incredible contributor to this community in more ways than just being a police officer,” Shedd said. “He loves people, and is just a warm human being; but he could probably take you down in a second if he had to.”

As far as the police chief’s role as a servant of and leader in the Chautauqua community, Gerace said “you have to be a heck of an ambassador,” and Akin has been “a perfect fit.”

Though he tries to fit in a round of golf at the Chautauqua Golf Club every so often, Akin said he’s never had a true summer vacation in 40 years. He looks forward to that seasonal break.

“I’ve still got to find something fun to do,” Akin said.

Administrators Review Arms of Strategic Plan at Last Week’s Info Meeting


At the seventh Strategic Plan Information Meeting on Thursday, August 8, Chautauqua Institution administrators fleshed out 150 Forward, a series of objectives and cross-cutting imperatives aimed at launching the Institution into its sesquicentennial and forward another 150 years.

The meeting — at 3:30 p.m. in the Hall of Christ — was led by Institution President Michael E. Hill, board of trustees Chair Jim Pardo and Strategic Planning Working Group Chair Laura Currie.

“This plan is not a plan of our committee, nor of just the board or the administration,” Currie said. “It’s the plan of all of Chautauqua. We really listened … and took your feedback.”

Currie’s 13-member committee led an 18-month data-mining initiative that was condensed into a 160-page executive summary of opportunities and challenges facing the Institution.

Such challenges include increasing competition for leisure time; changes in guest expectations and vacation preferences; low brand recognition; declining health of Chautauqua Lake; affordability; lack of diversity; and talent recruitment and retention.

“ ‘Chautauqua quaint’ isn’t quaint to everyone,” Currie said.

To address these impending challenges, the working group identified opportunities to pursue and synthesized those into four key objectives: optimize the summer season on the grounds; expand Chautauqua’s year-round convening authority; grow and diversify revenue; and drive a comprehensive, science-based solution to the lake’s declining health.

“You should not read into this that we are going to stop caring for our grounds — we will not be doing that,” Hill said, referencing efforts to improve the lake’s condition and its correlation to the Institution’s financial sustainability. “It’s the acknowledgment that a lot of what is attractive to many people is our location next to Chautauqua Lake.”   

At the strategic plan meeting, Chautauquans raised concerns about ticket and housing affordability, the need for more arts outreach to area schools and the need for more global conversations. Chautauquans also suggested the Institution extend the nine-week season and forge partnerships with national organizations like NPR.

These objectives reaffirm the Institution’s vision to “create an informed, engaged and renewed public that fosters and actively contributes to a more civil society, nationally and within the various communities represented by its individual constituents and partners,” according to Currie.

Accentuating this vision are four cross-cutting imperatives: strategic partnerships; mobilization of technology; labor and talent solutions; and IDEA — inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility.

Chief of Staff and Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Shannon Rozner and Parker Suddeth, a consultant hired by the Institution, lead weekly IDEA Listening Sessions, which consist of open-ended questions designed to facilitate conversation.

The next IDEA Listening Session will be 3:30 p.m. today, August 12 in the Hall of Christ; the next Strategic Plan Information Session will be 3:30 p.m. Thursday, August 15 in the Hall of Christ. Additionally, Chautauquans can voice concerns, leave comments or ask questions about the plan through the online forum at

Geoffrey Kemp and Henri Barkey to Present First Middle East Update of the Season


Geoffrey Kemp, senior director of the Center for the National Interest’s Regional Security Program, has hosted and facilitated the Middle East Updates at Chautauqua Institution since 1993. This year, Henri Barkey, Bernard L. and Bertha F. Cohen Professor at Lehigh University, will join him in delivering the first Middle East Update of the season.

The Middle East Update conversation will be held at 3:30 p.m. Monday, August 12 in the Hall of Philosophy. Kemp and Barkey’s discussion will be centered around leadership and conflicts in the Middle East and how these topics affect the United States.

“There is no real leader of the region anymore,” Barkey said. “The Egyptians obviously are in their own corner. There’s not a single leader in a single country that is essentially leading in the Middle East.”

Barkey said leadership conflicts in the Middle East, as well as wars and a lack of jobs, lead to the ongoing issues in the region.

“So you have a real mess, and none of the problems are being resolved; in fact, they’re getting a lot worse,” Barkey said. “Syria, Iraq, Iran and Yemen are the real big conflicts. So one way or another, you have conflicts beyond the United States.”

Barkey and Kemp have known one another for many years. Barkey said that he enjoys Kemp’s conversation style and is looking forward to sharing the stage with him once again.

“I’ve known Geoff now, I don’t know how many years, but he and I have shared the podium many times, and in fact, once already in Chautauqua,” Barkey said. “I think that it’s going to be a very conversational presentation, and I think we will go to the heart of some of these issues and not in a hardcore academic way, but a much more gentle way, which Geoff is so good at doing.”

Barkey’s area of expertise is Turkey, therefore the pair will be discussing the role that Turkey plays in the Middle East and its relationship with other countries.

The conversation will be interactive; Kemp said he likes to host the discussion in a way that makes it easy for people to understand and encourages the audience to ask questions or reach out for clarity.

“I will do some introductory comments and Henri will do most of the talking,” Kemp said. “The way we organize these meetings is that after I’ve introduced the overall theme and asked Henri some basic questions, he goes ahead and speaks, and I interrupt him with some follow-up questions. This goes on for about 25 minutes, and then we try to have at least 25 minutes for a Q-and-A.”

Kemp plans to address multiple issues that have arisen in the Middle East, such as ongoing wars, crises and challenges that countries all over the world are facing in the region. 

“I will sort of recite the list of crises and dilemmas and challenges that the United States and the region of the world faces in the Middle East, and that will include reference to the ongoing civil wars in Yemen and Libya and the semi-resolved but still unpleasant war in Syria, the Iran crisis, the latest updates on what’s happening on the Arab-Israeli front,” Kemp said. “Because it is one of my favorite themes at Chautauqua, I will also mention the water crises that are emerging, particularly in the Middle East, and why this is a telling indicator of horrors to come if we don’t deal with global warming.”

Week Eight Letter From the President

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Dear Fellow Chautauquans,

Welcome to the eighth week of our 146th Assembly. We’ve just come off a week centering on the notion of grace in our world. I’m grateful to Krista Tippett and her “On Being” team for their week of outstanding work. As stark as our pivot may seem, I think moving from grace to this week’s theme of “Shifting Global Power” is more natural than may appear at first blush, as our shifting global power is perhaps in need of grace. I also don’t think we can fully understand the frame we’d like to see in our global systems without exploring notions of grace, justice, peace and civility … and so we dive into this week as we continue our season’s journey.

Power is shifting on the international stage. It always has been. During this week, we will focus on the geopolitical hot-spots of the moment, examining the new holders, and even the new definitions, of global power. Each day, we will explore one topic or definition of power, and identify the major players in that arena. And we will ask, how is power even defined, beyond money and military might? Is it natural resources, technology, education, diplomacy and aid, culture? As power shifts, so, too, do identities and values. Are there ways power ought to shift?

In our companion Interfaith Lecture Series, we focus on power through the idea of “soft power.” Power is often conflated with might, but increasingly faith traditions are promoting new paradigms for conflict transformation, understanding and collaboration through shared visions and ideals, restorative practices, relationship-building and rituals — all the components of soft power. This week, we will learn from those who are utilizing soft power for global peacemaking, reconciliation and quality of life. 

I have been fascinated by the notion of soft power since my days serving as president and CEO of Youth For Understanding. The entire notion of student exchange is that citizens can deeply influence the course of nations when they understand other cultures and systems, and use that knowledge to sway their respective societies. That’s one of the reasons that I love the topic this week, as our citizen group here at Chautauqua assembles to wrestle with this. 

Outside of a fascinating and important topic, we have some outstanding guides to help us this week. Chautauqua favorite Bill Moyers returns for a 2 p.m. lecture on Monday. We regret that he cannot join us for the entire week, as originally planned (doctor’s orders), but are still incredibly grateful that he will set the stage for these important conversations. Bill has been recognized as one of the unique voices of our time. His career in broadcast journalism has spanned five decades and earned him more than 36 Emmy Awards, nine Peabody Awards, six Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, the National Humanities Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the PEN USA Courageous Advocacy Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and the Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from the American Film Institute. He’s also just a lovely person and friend to us; I’m excited to have him back. 

This week, we award The Chautauqua Prize, honoring 2019 winner All the Names They Used for God: Stories and celebrating its author, Anjali Sachdeva. I have followed this book since it showed up on the Prize shortlist. If you haven’t read it yet, grab a copy at our bookstore. Anjali is going to be a significant voice in the literary arts in the coming years, and I’m elated to elevate this brilliant piece of literature.

And while all of our speakers are insightful, I’m so fascinated by Tarana J. Burke, the founder of the MeToo Movement. For more than 25 years, Tarana has worked at the intersection of racial justice, arts and culture and sexual violence. The MeToo Movement sparked a major sea of change in the equality movement, and her journey and story allows us to take a very different spin on shifting global power.

As I look at the list of this week’s arts offerings, I’m reminded that many of our programs in our Schools of Performing and Visual Arts have, or are about to, come to a close. Our students bring such incredible energy to our campus. I’m always sad to see them go, as it starts to signal a winding down of our season. I want to publicly thank them, and the faculty and staff of these programs, for an incredible year.

While for some this week marks the second-to-last week of our summer assembly, I know that for many it is the first week of your Chautauqua experience. We welcome those just joining us as we take our community conversation to the global stage. May it fill us with the knowledge to be better global citizens because of it.

-Michael E. Hill

Chautauqua’s 145 Birthday, Celebration & Reflection (Gallery)


Chautauquans of all ages turned out to throw the Institution a party in honor of its 145th birthday, all throughout the day on Tuesday — from family-friendly activities on Bestor Plaza to the traditional reflections of Old First Night in the Amphitheater. Old First Night is a time to celebrate and give back, and thanks to the collective birthday gift of the community, over $24,000 was raised Tuesday in support of the 2019 Chautauqua Fund, and every gift makes a difference. Lin Winters Jones, of White River Junction, Vermont, won the drawing for an electronics package — including a Kindle Fire HD 10 Tablet with charging doc and an Echo Show 5 — offered as the Old First Night giveaway.


Traditional Old First Night Run/Walk Takes 43rd Lap Around Grounds


Bright and early last Saturday morning at Sports Club, Chautauquans gathered for one of the Institution’s most cherished traditions: The Old First Night Run/Walk.

Since the event’s inception in 1977, hundreds of participants have flooded in from every corner of the United States to join in the fun. Now in its 43rd year, the OFN Run/Walk continues to grow, this year drawing 624 racers.

Participants were organized along the road before the start, and at the sound of a horn, Chautauquans sprinted, jogged and walked through the course. Some participated as solo runners and some brought partners, children, babies or even dogs along with them.

Finishing the 2.75-mile run in first place with a 15-minute and 4-second time was Adam Cook, and following in second was Alex Spiro, who are both Allegheny College cross country runners. After finishing and taking some time to hydrate and recuperate, Cook said this run wasn’t too much of a challenge for them.

“We’re high mileage runners, we’re used to 50-70-mile (weekly running), so this isn’t too bad,” Cook said. “This is shorter than our usual competitions, but I knew the hill was going to be hard, so I started off slow and climbed the hill to maintain my pace.”

Spiro said they anticipated the steep hill on the south end of the grounds, due to the training regimen they chose; to run the course on a loop before last Saturday’s race.

“In general, we knew all the surprises that were coming up,” Spiro said. “We knew where the highest elevation was and were able to plan accordingly, but coming back down the hill isn’t as easy. You need to let loose and open your stride more coming down the hill to keep from injuring yourself, and it’s just enough to give us some energy coming down to finish.”

Cook also said he is familiar with the course, since he has been coming to Chautauqua with his parents and grandparents for years.

This is something Deb Lyons, director of Sports Club said makes the OFN Run/Walk so popular year after year.

“This is a tradition, this race,” Lyons said. “You’ll find out this race has inspired people in so many different ways. Not only do some huge families have 20 people sign up every year, but generations of families do it. People have juggled this course last year, juggling it and running it. People keep coming because it is a tradition for them.”

Taking the prize for the oldest participant was Bud Horne at 94 years old, and a few boys and girls, only a few months old, tied for the youngest Chautauquans to finish the race. But no matter the time they received or their age, these Chautauquans continued the tradition of care and support during the OFN Run/Walk.

NOW Generation Hosts Sixth Annual Summerfest on Heels of Old First Night

From left, Violet and Adena Giroux, play ping pong during the NowGen Summer Fest on Saturday, August 3, 2019 in the Youth Activities Center.

Last Saturday morning, after the Old First Night Run/Walk, families and friends gathered at the Youth Activities Center for a fun-filled morning of games and activities.

The NOW Generation and advisory council volunteers hosted the sixth annual Summerfest, where Chautauquans were invited to bring their children or grandchildren and participate in family-friendly activities. After the Old First Night Run/Walk, people gathered inside of the YAC, where they could choose from pancakes, sausage, fruit and much more for breakfast. Kids were doing crafts and playing games and could be seen outside throwing frisbees and blowing bubbles.

“We try to capitalize on the Old First Night buzz and when everyone’s in town gathering after the race,” said Mhoire Murphy, NOW Generation advisory council member. “It’s fun to get everyone together.”

Murphy said the event is like a multigenerational reunion, where members are able to see their old counselors from Boys’ and Girls’ Club and old friends.

“(Summerfest) is our biggest family event, so even though we’re the NOW Gen, many of our events are open to everyone, which a lot of people don’t realize,” said Russell Bermel, advisory council chair of NOW Generation.

Throughout the season, NOW Generation volunteers host multiple family-friendly events, such as weekly volunteer-led playdates Tuesdays at Timothy’s and Wednesdays at the Water. For adults, there are weekly Pub Chats at 4 p.m. on Tuesdays in the Athenaeum Hotel Lobby Lounge.

“I think that those events are great because they give people a place to land in Chautauqua and connect with other people in NOW Generation,” said Carrie Zachry Oliver, NOW Generation council member. “For planning purposes, we offer to let people self-nominate to host things, which is cool, because it’s allowed for a variety of hosts this summer and it’s made each event a little bit different based on who’s hosting.”

Wes Delancey, 37, has been coming to Chautauqua for his entire life. He said that 22 of his family members came to the grounds this year, and Summerfest is one of his favorite events.

“I love Summerfest,” Delancey said. “After the race, it’s a good way to come over and see friends that you’ve grown up with. It’s a good way to keep everything going on a Saturday.”

Delancey worked at the YAC when he was younger, so he has many longtime friends and connections at Chautauqua. He said being able to come back and reunite with them is one of the best parts of the event.

“It’s a special place, there’s no question about it,” Delancey said. “You literally don’t see people for 365 days, then you come back and you feel like you saw them yesterday. That’s one of the nice things about the NOW Generation.”

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

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