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.
Two Rivers Chautauqua got its start in 2006, thanks to the Museum of Western Colorado, Colorado Humanities, and local donors. It is a two-day event held each year on a Friday and Saturday.
You'll notice that some of our Chautauquans portray very well-known American icons; others are not so well-known. We believe that part of the fun of Chautauqua is learning more about our country's history through historical figures we may not know so well, or at all. Here's a year by year theme:
- 2006 - The Call of the West with Kit Carson, Jessie Benton Fremont, Teddy Roosevelt, and Marie Curie
- 2007 - 1776 with Benjamin Franklin, Phillis Wheatley, Thomas Jefferson, and Hector St. John de Crevecoeur
- 2008 - World War II with General George Patton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Ernie Pyle
- 2009 - Larger than Life with Irene Castle, P.T. Barnum, Coco Chanel, and Babe Ruth
- 2010 - The American Civil War with Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, William Lloyd Garrison, and Robert E. Lee
- 2011 - Lighten Up! with Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker, and Will Rogers
- 2012 - Inventive Minds with Henry Ford, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Albert Einstein, and Dr. Seuss
- 2013 - Colorado Riches! with Margaret "Molly" Brown, Otto Mears, Teddy Roosevelt, and el vaquero, Diego Martín
- 2014 - American Dreams with Alexander Hamilton, John James Audubon, Jane Addams, and Rosa Parks
- 2015 - Rascals and Rogues with Benedict Arnold, Belle Starr, Aimee Semple McPherson, and Huey Long
- 2016 - Character Forged in Conflict with Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Nikita Khrushchev
- 2017 - Western Voices with Laura Ingalls Wilder, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Mark Twain
- 2018 - WWI: The War to End All Wars with Erich Maria Remarque, Emma Goldman, and General Jack Pershing
- 2019 - That's the Way it Was: The Baby Boom Years with Walt Disney, Julia Child, and Walter Cronkite
- 2020 - The 19th Amendment and All That Jazz with performers coming soon