Chautauqua 1912-1931

The Piqua Chautauqua was the city’s longest running community festival. The Piqua-Community Chautauqua Association held their first festival at Fountain Park from August 16 until August 25, 1912. The festival grew in popularity and after World War I, a permanent pavilion was built in the park (today known as the Hance Pavilion). Local and imported talent competed for the attention of Chautauqua goers. Local talent included the Piqua Drama League, the Piqua Band under Phil Gates, and the Elks Glee Club. International presentations were represented by the Star Russian Company (vocal group from the Soviet Union), the Ramos Mexican Orchestra and the Gypsy Troubadours. Speakers were a main draw for Chautauqua and included Billy Sunday, Lowell Thomas and numerous senators, governors, and other public figures. Camping was allowed in the park, but a 1917 program stated that “all tent holders will furnish their own electric light bulbs”. The Association held their last Chautauqua in 1931. The American legion Drum Corps took over for an additional two years, but could not make a go of the festival during the Depression. A small revival of Chautauqua was organized in 1975 and 1976 by Don Smith on the Piqua public square.

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