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Colorado’s Chautauqua

An Enriching Escape

Emmylou Harris performs “The Traveling Kind”, with Rodney Crowell at Chautauqua Auditorium on September, 24th.

Emmylou Harris performs “The Traveling Kind”, with Rodney Crowell at Chautauqua Auditorium on September, 24th.

Imagine entering an oasis of respite, a step back into time, where inspired views, tranquil parks, cultural programming, and fresh cuisine combine for a soul-nourishing escape. Located at the base of Boulder’s famous Flatirons, the Colorado Chautauqua National Historic Landmark welcomes locals and visitors to experience world-class entertainment with a backdrop of scenic splendor. 

One cannot step onto the picturesque grounds of the Colorado Chautauqua without embracing its profound historic character. Originating in Chautauqua Lake, New York, where the first was held, Chautauqua Circuit Assemblies swept across rural America in the late 19th and 20th centuries providing entertainment, educational lectures, and political news of the day before the prevalence of television and radio. 

Founded in 1898, the Colorado Chautauqua is the western representation of the cultural movement and remains the only permanent Chautauqua west of the Mississippi. “The Colorado Chautauqua has been in continuous operation since its founding and with its original structures intact, used for their original purposes,” according to Ann Obenchain, marketing and development director for Colorado Chautauqua Association. “It is also unique in that it is the only year-round Chautauqua.”

In the late 1890s, the Texas Board of Regents wanted to establish a summer school and educational retreat for teachers in a cool climate. Obenchain explained. “They chose this location for its spectacular mountain setting and its health-giving environment.” 

The first year was set up as a “tent city” with residents taking their meals in the dining hall and attending lectures and performances in the evening. The tents gave way to charming cottages with screened-in front porches that are now offered as lodging. A beautiful Community House built in 1918, served as the “living room” for gathering, and today hosts private parties and meetings.

After a hike on the nearby trails, or before a concert, the original Dining Hall still beckons guest to ‘sit-a-spell’ while enjoying fresh, Colorado bistro cuisine or cocktails on the enchanting wraparound porch. 

For over a century, the historic Auditorium has offered diverse performances from such distinguished artists as Lyle Lovett, Joan Baez, Chris Isaak, Indigo Girls, The Neville Brothers, Ziggy Marley, Michael MacDonald, and Los Lobos. 

This fall, Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell enliven the stage, as well as the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance ensemble. 

Whether taking in a concert, hiking nearby trails, picnicking in the grassy parks, or enjoying homemade ice cream at the General Store, the Colorado Chautauqua harkens back to simpler times, exemplifying its original ideals of lifelong learning, embracing nature, and the performance arts.