Chautauqua takes its name from a movement that began near Lake Chautauqua, New York, in the 1800s. It began with Sunday school teachers gathering for a week of study, but it became a touring program through which local communities could enjoy traveling speakers, politicians, plays, and music. Many communities still have the Chautauqua parks where these outdoor events were held, usually under a big tent. We’ve been told that at its height in 1924, Chautauqua programs visited over 12,000 towns and entertained over 32,000,000 people nationwide. But new technologies – radio and TV – led to the demise of the old-fashioned Chautauqua.
Today, Chautauqua has been reinvented as a way to bring the humanities, especially history, back to life. Organizations across the country bring in professional scholar-actors (Chautauquans) as historical characters, bringing history to life for their audiences. Local talent provides a great variety of daytime programs. These modern-day Chautauquas are usually sponsored by state humanities councils and other non-profit entities.
More information here.