Bishop Hill's Chautauqua, held this weekend, celebrates 'History in Person'

Todd DeDecker
For the Geneseo Republic
Stephen Hollen will perform as Mark Twain  at Bishop Hill's Chautauqua this weekend.

Bishop Hill’s 9th Annual Chautauqua looks back at the history of the ChautauquaMovement.

“We have invited these voices from the past who have something to say to our audiences today,” says Artistic Director Brian “Fox” Ellis.

On Saturday Aug. 27 and Sunday Aug. 28, the Bishop Hill Heritage Association will host this free festival in the newlyrestored gazebo in the town square.

On Saturday the day begins at 10 a.m. with “A Storyteller's Tour of Bishop Hill”, a walking tour lead by Brian “Fox” Ellis that begins at the Twinflower Inn. The tour will last about 90 minutes and circle the town. The tour will include stories of the founding of the town, as well as some of its more colorful recent history.

At 1 p.m. in the park, Brian “Fox” Ellis portrays Robert Ridgway, an Illinois native who became the first full-time curator of birds at the United States National Museum. Ridgway was also the primary author of The Birds of North and Middle America.

At 2 p.m., storyteller and author Stephen Hollen brings to life Mark Twain’s wit and humor with a lively mix of quotes and both popular and lesser known stories. Mark Twain was a writer, humorist, and Chautauqua lecturer.

And at 3 p.m., Michael Hurt will sing the songs made popular by the Fisk Jubilee Singers. This program covers the history of African-American vocal music; including field hollers sung by field slaves; call and response work songs of the south and of the West Indies.

These historical musical forms ultimately birthed the Negro spiritual, gospel, the blues, and jazz. Hurt has sung with the Heritage Ensemble and Opera Illinois and he has appeared in many regional theater productions.

On Sunday, the the program starts in the park at 1:00 p.m. with the folk music ensemble Hammer and Pick and a rowdy tour of American folk music. Hammer and Pick has been playing for audiences in Western Illinois since the 1980's. Jon Wagner plays hammered dulcimer, banjo, guitar and harmonica; Jan Sams plays guitar and bass; and William Hope adds his guitar & dobro.

At 2 p.m., Brian “Fox” Ellis steps into the shoes of our fishing president, President Herbert Hoover, to present a program based on his book Fishing for Fun--and to Wash Your Soul. Hoover will recall some of his favorite fish tales from his boyhood fishing in West Branch. He will tell a few fishing jokes, stories of fishing with other world leaders, and how he used fishing as a diplomatic tool. Hoover was also President of the Izaak Walton League, which iscelebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

At 3 p.m., Stephen Hollen will bring to life Buffalo Bill, with tales of the Wild West. Born just across the river in Le Claire Iowa, Buffalo Bill Cody became of one of the most famous figures of the Wild West.

All programs will be held at the newly restored gazebo in Bishop Hill’s town square, on the corners of Main Street and Bishop Hill Road, in Bishop Hill, IL. Folks are encouraged to bring a lawn chair, bring a friend, and plan to come early to eat lunch in one of several restaurants or visit shops and museums. This free public event is sponsored by the BishopHill Heritage Association, Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, Geneseo Foundation,HistoryInPerson.com and the Twinflower Inn Bed and Breakfast. For more information, call309-927-3899, visit www.bishophillheritage.org or email bhha@mymctc.net .

The Bishop Hill Chautauqua Schedule:

Saturday August 27th

  • 10 am A Storyteller's Tour of Bishop Hill with Brian “Fox” Ellis
  • 1:00 Robert Ridgway: the Birdman of Illinois
  • 2:00 Mark Twain’s Wit and Humor with Stephen Hollen
  • 3:00 Michael Hurt performs Music of the Fisk Jubilee Singers

Sunday, August 28th

  • 1:00 Hammer and Pick perform America’s Folk Music
  • 2:00 Herbert Hoover: Our Fishing President with Brian “Fox” Ellis
  • 3:00 Buffalo Bill and the Wild West with Stephen Hollen