The Fernie Museums is hosting an event in honour of their new exhibit, An Immigrant Story: The Rise and Fall of Emilio Picariello.
A Chautauqua, a 1920s style community event, will be held to celebrate the exhibit, which is dedicated to Emilio Picariello, an infamous bootleggers from that time, who was sentenced to death by hanging for the murder of a police officer. Folklore surrounding the story promotes the idea that Picariello and his wife were innocent, and were wrongly accused.
Chautauquas began in Chautauqua Lake, New York, with the intention of carrying entertainment and education to communities across North America. Fernie hosted Chautauquas annually from 1918 to the late 1920s.
The 2015 Chautauqua will feature walking tours, musical entertainment, dramatic reenactments of historical events from the area and a boxed lunch and ice cream social, starting at 10 a.m. on Sept. 19.
“One thing for this exhibit, probably more than any other exhibit that we will do for quite sometime, is that because the story is quite dramatic and it’s over the top and larger than life, it lends itself really well to theatrical presentations. A lot of what we are doing is drama and first person based stories where you get to meet some of the characters that surrounded the story,” said Ron Ulrich, curator at the Fernie Museum.
The Fernie Temperance League will be at the event, performing reenactments of the story and setting the tone for the occasion.
“With the Chautauqua theme we wanted of have this old fashioned kind of picnic social kind of feel. One of Picariello’s businesses was actually an ice cream wagon, where he used to take it around town. He would have kids bring him bottles and then he would give them an ice cream cone,” said Lori Bradish, program director at the Fernie Museum. “So what we are planning on doing is with your lunch you will get a bottle of pop, and you can take it to the ice cream table, and exchange it for a desert ice cream cone.”
The Chautauqua is designed to be an educational event, the first in a series of events dedicated to the new exhibit. Future events include a bus tour, walking tours, a speakeasy night and a re-examination of the Picariello trials. The decedents of the Picariello family will be making the opening remarks and are donating family artifacts to the exhibit.
Bradish and Ulrich are hoping to attract people to the event, as it is rich with local history for stories. “There are still a lot of people in the community that know these families. It’s not that old of the story,” Bradish said.
“The exhibit is open this Saturday and goes through until January 6,” said Ulrich.
The event will be held outside of the Fernie Museum, with a half block closed between Second and Third avenues on Fifth street.