Chautauqua Assembly returns to DeFuniak Springs Jan. 24 – 27, 2019

December 29, 2018

Florida Chautauqua’s Assembly 2019 takes place from Thursday, January 24 through Sunday, January 27th with most activities centered on Friday the 25th and Saturday the 26th.  The website details all of the program offerings which evolve around the theme and the four pillars of Chautauqua which include art, recreation, religion and education. 

This year’s theme is a focus on Main Street America. Registration forms for the Assembly can be found online along with ticket information.  Tickets can be purchased for individual events ($10-$25).  A much better value can be found by investing in a one day or a two day “Passport” which is an all inclusive ticket and a money saving opportunity at just $75 – $150 respectively.  Registration forms can also be mailed by calling 850-892-7613.

Chautauqua 2019 Features:

  • Speakers for this year’s event were chosen based on their ability to present multiple perspectives of “Main Street.”  Thomas Cloud, Esq. focuses in on five historical Main Streets in Florida while Greg Garland, foreign service officer, explains Main Street as perceived in the American imagination.  AARP’s Leslie Spencer lays out that organization’s viewpoint on a livable Main Street, Dr. Hillary Glenn talks about health implications of a small town environment and Julie Smith addresses the coming Veteran’s Lodge which will be the epicenter of care for veterans in the Panhandle.  Gayle Powers projects Main Street into the 21st Century.  And, of course, historical presentations on DeFuniak Springs, Antarctica, New York Chautauqua and specialized local communities such as “Healing Tools for Warriors” just begin to touch on the varied types of presentations offered.
  • Walk and Talk Sessions illuminating the historic nature of DeFuniak Springs will take place at four venues:  The Old Post Office built in 1936, Hotel DeFuniak, Bruce Wallace’s Dream Cottage on the Circle and St. Agatha’s Episcopal Church which includes tours of two homes on the Circle Drive.  Each of these venues will explain the history of the structure and the historical renovation completed to preserve the building and make possible its use in the 21st Century.  The contractor for the Old Post Office will be presenting the tour along with one of its current owners.  The tour director for St. Agatha’s is also the grant writer who will discuss the steps taken to get the monetary support of the state of Florida to contribute to preservation efforts.  Hotel DeFuniak was renovated as a business venture and operates as a hotel, bar and café. The caretaker of the Dream Cottage fondly shares stories about the builder of this home, the first President of Chautauqua.
  • The Art Pillar will be presented through live demonstrations at the Chautauqua Campus of Northwest Florida State in DeFuniak Springs.  Art will be on display and the artists will be on hand to explain their art and do live demonstrations.  Art runs the gamut from quilt making and porcelain painting to digitized computer art and everything in-between.  Also on Friday and Saturday, Plein Air Artists will be in the Lake Yard recreating visions of what they observe with these paintings being offered for sale at each evening’s wine tasting at the Hotel DeFuniak.  With the participation of the college this year, there is more room to feature well over a dozen artists presenting their craft. The college is also the site of three performance teas.
  • Though the Performance Teas are a well known annual event at Chautuauqua, this year’s offerings are exceptional.  The first tea will be at a Victorian home on the Circle and offer a southern social event. Laura and Almonzo Ingalls Wilder headline two teas and local acclaimed actor, Bruce Collier, reenacts Winston Churchill at a historic moment during WW II.  As always, a genuine tea service accompanies each performance. Teas sell out early as there is limited seating so buying tickets as soon as possible are a must if this is a priority during one’s Chautauqua visit.
  • For the first time ever, all three meals of the day – breakfast, lunch and dinner are included on Friday and Saturday at Chautauqua’s Winter Assembly.  We are billing this as a “Taste of the South” event in showcasing small town America and its delicious food offerings kicked off each day with a home cooked southern breakfast prepared in the Parish Hall of St. Agatha’s with a myriad of choices for diners.  Lunch on the Circle Drive will allow three offerings so that visitors can meander the exhibits on the Lake Yard, visit the museum and the adjacent revitalized downtown as it undergoes continued renovation. Dinner with entertainment will also center on solid southern hometown cooking catered by a local favorite, 4CBBQ, featuring unique dishes specially prepared for this Chautauqua weekend.  DeFuniak Spring’s own Chautauqua Vineyards and Winery will be serving wine selections each evening and offering specials to their wine club for attendees at the Hotel DeFuniak wine reception before dinner each evening.
  • Vespers, an evening religious service at historic St. Agatha’s Episcopal Church, will feature a ½ hour service on both Friday and Saturday evenings.  Both services are a combination of songs, readings and an inspirational sermon by the Episcopalian Reverend Deborah Thompson-Kempson on Friday and Baptist Pastor Tim Burnham on Saturday.
  • Lake Yard Exhibits are always free to the public.  As in past years, the Florida Forestry Department will have a 40’ x 60’ tent with interactive exhibits well suited for both children and adults.  There will also be a Civil War Reenactment with an actual battle planned on Sunday, January 27th at 1:30 p.m.  Florida Frontiersmen will also be exhibiting.  New this year to the Lake Yard is the Indian Temple Mound Museum representing Native Americans in the Panhandle. The Walton County Heritage Museum will be open for visitors.  Tin Can Tourists are celebrating their 100 Year Anniversary and their leader, Tim Heintz, will be featured as a free speaker as he discusses the history of this group.  Their rejuvenated campers will be parked around the Circle Drive and many allow Lake Yard attendees to view the inside of these gems which harken back in time to an earlier era of leisure time travel. 
  • Entertainment on Friday evening is a staging of Americana music by the Panhandle Prophets, Mary and Patrick Hunter, as they sing us through the roots of folk music in an “infotainment” venue examining their musical roots in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.  Saturday evening presents another local phenomenal songwriter, Chris Alvarado, known on the Emerald Coast for his contemporary music harkening back to the 70’s and into the 21st century singing old and new favorites.  Chris’ songwriting talents have been recognized in Nashville along with his unique talent in handcrafting one-of-a-kind guitars which are in high demand by entertainers.  The Thursday evening Welcome Party features a 12 piece live band, Hashtag Swing, offering background music as Chautauquans gather to greet one another, renew friendships and be introduced to all this year’s program has to offer.
  • Chautauqua Assembly was established in DeFuniak Springs in 1875 when a New York community sought a warm environment for their winter assemblies.  Revived in 1993, Chautauqua chooses one broad theme and looks at it from many different perspectives.  This year’s theme is a “Journey into Main Street America” which focuses on the revitalization of historic downtown areas and their surrounding environment.  DeFuniak Springs became a Main Street community two years ago and is a perfect example of revitalization efforts.  The National Director of Main Street America, Patrice Frey, is this year’s keynote speaker on Friday and will be joined on Saturday by the Florida Director of that organization, Katherine Beck, speaking in a general session.  Almost all of the activities are centered around the historic Circle Drive, the site of beautiful Victorian homes built at the end of the 19th Century.