Updated: Aug. 13, 2019
The white-hot crucible of events that was the 1960s—including the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the space program and rock ‘n’ roll—will be explored during the 21st annual Chautauqua tent show, “The 1960s in Delaware: A Decade of Turmoil and Transformation,” that will take place at the Lewes History Museum, located at 101 Adams Ave. in downtown Lewes, Del., from Sept. 19 to 21, 2019. Admission is free and open to the public. For a complete listing of activities, go to https://history.delaware.gov/chautauqua. For additional information, call 302-645-1148 or 302-645-7670.
A unique mixture of education and entertainment, Lewes’ Chautauqua will be held under a large tent and will feature historical theater, music, film and lectures. Highlights of the three-day event include actor-historians from the American Historical Theatre portraying Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Lyndon B. Johnson on Thursday, Sept. 19; a screening of the documentary “Good Ol’ Freda” about the Beatles’ secretary on Friday, Sept. 20; and a concert/dance featuring the 60’s Revival Band on Saturday, Sept. 21. Visitors are encouraged to dress in their favorite ’60s fashions for the performance.
Chautauqua takes its name from a series of adult education programs that were first held at a campsite on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in upstate New York during the late 19th century. Chautauquas spread throughout America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries bringing speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day to a wide cross-section of the nation’s rural and small-town population. Circuit Chautauquas (also known as Tent Chautauquas) were an itinerant manifestation of the movement. Programs would be presented in tents pitched in a field near town. After several days, the Chautauqua would fold its tents and move on to the next community. The popularity of Chautauquas peaked in the mid-1920s, after which radio, movies and automobiles brought about the gradual disappearance of the movement by the 1940s.
Reborn in the 1970s as a vehicle for humanities education, modern Chautauquas are often organized around a core program in which actor-historians portray celebrated historical figures, speaking and interacting with audiences. Modern Chautauquas have been presented annually in Delaware since 1999 featuring a wide variety of historical figures including Mark Twain; Woodrow Wilson; Teddy Roosevelt; Abraham Lincoln; Amelia Earhart; Dolley Madison; Eleanor Roosevelt; Edgar Allan Poe; the Lone Ranger; John Philip Sousa; and Delaware’s own Pvt. James Elbert, Maj. Allen McLane, F.O.C. Darley and Clifford Brown.
“The 1960s in Delaware: A Decade of Turmoil and Transformation” is co-sponsored by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ Zwaanendael Museum, the Lewes Historical Society, and the Lewes Chamber of Commerce, and is partially funded by a grant from Delaware Humanities, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.