Monday, July 4, 2016

Chautauqua Chic

The storied Chautauqua Institution has such a golden reputation for its P.C. outlook, its prim almost precious profile, that it can be difficult to see its crazier - let's say whimsical and wondrous - side.
A recent trip (theme for week one, late June into July 2016: "On Creative Expression") very nearly convinced me the handsome lakeside gated community was for many reasons about to become chic. As in 'sought after,'  'popular,' 'a model of its kind.' The current demographic definitely skews 'senior' - as might be expected of a place where families have been coming for years and only reluctantly give up property - mirroring the national trend. (Oldsters staying older longer.) That doesn't diminish individual capacity for good works and inspirational activities. A very retired ob-gyn doc named Herb is a fine example of this. He makes lemon tarts and sells them to benefit the Chautauqua Foundation. Tarts made with such finesse that any professional chef would applaud. So Herb, who hand delivers tarts to a buyer's fridge, wrote a book about them that is sold in the very well stocked bookstore on the premises. The organist who plays what is said to be the oldest and largest 'outdoor' organ in the world cheerfully steps up  between numbers to talk about being adopted and how he came to find his talent. He performs at noon in the open-air (on the sides) amphitheater that seats as many as 7,600 thousand at a go. On the same commanding stage where 80-year-old Alan Alda and his wife sat recently talking about their lives to a capacity audience.
Think any of this unusual? Try putting together a daily schedule of such varied events - and more - and find anywhere else that can match it. A 'resort' that has as a central feature a vast green lawn banked at one end by a stately up-to-date library.

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