The very first Fernie Chautauqua was held over one hundred years ago and the tradition is alive and well today.
The historic event makes its annual comeback to the downtown core on Sept. 9 and 10. It stays true to its original purpose, showcasing lectures, music and art.
Fernie Museum collections services coordinator Lindsay Vallance is hosting presentations at the Senior’s Centre on Sept. 10. From 10:30 a.m. to 12:30, locals can listen to her delve into the history of the local red-light district and provide an overview of Victorian dress. Entrance to the museum will be free all weekend.
The museum presents a new presentation topic each year — usually something that catches the interest of the staff when they look through the archives.
“When something interesting pops up, we usually dig a little deeper into it,” said museum director Cory Dvorak.
Another historic activity, traditional children’s games, are scheduled Sept. 9, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Youth can partake in face-painting, a boot toss, and a variety of races, like sack, three-legged and egg and spoon at City Hall.
Musicians are scheduled to perform all afternoon on both days of Chautauqua. Local rock band The Relief Committee and country duo Scarlett Butler take to the stage at 1 and 3 p.m. respectively, on Sept. 9.
Fernie’s all-woman music ensemble The Audielles and country singer-songwriter Shelley Lynch are the headliners the following day, at 1 and 3 p.m.
As Dvorak explained, the very first Chautauqua was held in Fernie in 1917 as a way to promote local art and culture.
“It was a big event because in the smaller towns it wasn’t easy for them to access that kind of thing. This event brought all the arts and culture to them,” he said.
The history of Chautauqua does not start with Fernie, however. The very first of these events was held in New York state in the late 19th century and was initially considered a family-friendly Christian alternative to vaudeville. Its influence spread quickly across North America, reaching peak popularity in the 1920s, but began to wane in later decades.
The event was eventually revived in Fernie, and the museum began hosting it in 2015.
In keeping with the event’s artsy roots, Fernie Visual Artist Guild and Fernie Quilt Guild will display their creations and demonstrate their crafts — quilting, weaving and painting — on Sept. 10 in the afternoon at City Hall.
On Sept. 9, the Catholic Women’s League is hosting a heritage tea at the Catholic Hall from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and Fernie Fire and Rescue is running a family safety day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at City Hall.
Eventgoers can join Special Olympics silver medalist Wayne Gowanlock on Sept. 10 for some rounds of bocce at city hall, commencing at 11 a.m. and wrapping up around 1 p.m.
Dvorak said he looks forward to seeing the community connect and spend some quality time together.