Youth Chautauqua Camp- Kids Keep an Old Tradition Alive


Children in Hall County are learning to keep an old tradition of the Nebraska Chautauqua alive.

Traveling Chautauquas brought the world to rural communities in Nebraska in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Though communication advances made the world much smaller, now the same tradition carries over as young historians prepare for the program.

Kids will act out a first person narrative on Friday, and the youth camp is helping to prepare them for it. Chautauqua was once about learning about current events; it's now become a way to preserve history.

Their teachers at the five day camp are calling them the young historians, researchers, scriptwriters, and actors as the kids are preparing to act a first person narrative of a local historic figure.

Ann Birney is with ‘Ride into History,' one of the groups contracted by Humanities Nebraska. Birney said, "They decided who they wanted to portray and they're researching. Today (Tuesday) is day two. We talked about what makes a good story."

Modern Chautauqua is all about that storytelling.

The kids are researching historical figures, and learning about their personalities and impact on the community. Some of the figures include William Stolley, Gus Fonner, and Elizabeth Abbott.

Aside from the kids at the youth Chautauqua camp, there are six seasoned scholars in town. They're portraying Mark Twain, Willa Cather, Grenville Dodge, Laura Ingalls Wilder, George Washington Carver, and Ponca Chief Standing Bear.

Paxton Williams traveled from Chicago to portray George Washington Carver, bringing more than a decade of experience to the character. Williams said, "The kids are very inspiring. For us to see them at the beginning of their research process is a joy."

Taylor Keen, a full-time lecturer and director of the Native American Center at Creighton University in Omaha, is portraying Chief Standing Bear. Keen said, "The more people ask questions, the more I learn about this role."

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