This was an excursion, I hadn't planned. I had intended to spend my time resting and nursing in the hotel room. After all, when Mark said he had a gig in Pennsylvania approximately ninety minutes outside of Philly in some Mt. something or other farm town, I rolled my eyes and wrote it off. We were driving in from our quick mini-trip to Atlantic City and I was tired, I figured I'd put the boys to bed and read the book I didn't get to leisurely read on the beach.
Then we hit traffic and our calm drive turned into a hectic sprint to make sound check and so it was that the boys and I ended up in a most surprising little place.
Tucked away amidst sprawling farmland and cornfields in Pennsylvania Dutch Country lies the Mt. Gretna Chautauqua- a beautiful wooded and restored collection of charming historical cottages, impressive performance spaces and stately lecture halls.
So, what is a chautauqua?
I had the pleasure of speaking with several members of the Mt. Gretna Arts Council about the topic since I had never heard of them. Here's what I learned- a brief history lecture for your reading pleasure:
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, chautauquas were ubiquitous in rural America as institutions for adult learning and culture. With a focus primarily on the arts, chautauquas were known for bringing music, dance, painting, literature, cooking and other arts to rural America. The original chautauqua, which is still fully functioning, is in Chautauqua, New York- hence the name. Around the 1950's, as almost every family in America had a car, chautauquas began to die out as people had the ability to travel to attain culture. Only a few chautauquas remain, Mt. Gretna is one of them.
Mark played this night with a swing band as part of the Mt. Gretna Cicada Musical Festival.
Mt. Gretna seems to have it all. In addition to regular concerts, there is a complete season of theatre and theare for young audiences, you can find author lectures, rotating art galleries, religious and philosophical talks, live comedy, a film series and cooking demonstrations (and I'm sure I've left a few things out).
The majority of the chautauqua attendees come from the Mt.Gretna and surrounding areas, but a good number of people travel to attend. The events are inexpensive and completely open to the public.
About 90 minutes outside of Philly and three hours or so outside of NYC, the Mt. Gretna Chautauqua (depending upon where you live of course) makes for a wonderful woodsy mini-break.
I have plans to return in another week for the illumination of the cottages, farewell to summer celebration.
Ohm and Mark want to return to the playground.