Bishop Hill will host their 8th annual Chautauqua with Walt Whitman, Louisa May Alcott, and Laura Ingalls Wilder sharing stories and songs.  Each re-enactor will explore their unique perspectives on American History through the news of the day from their respective time periods. The event begins at 12:30 p.m. in the village park on Saturday August 22.  The Bishop Hill Chautauqua ends at 5:00 p.m.

          At 12:30 p.m., one of America’s greatest poets, Walt Whitman, who worked in the hospitals during the Civil War will open the show.  Local storyteller Brian “Fox” Ellis steps into his shoes to sing the praises of American Democracy, Abraham Lincoln, and the greatness of this nation we are constantly striving towards. Weaving poetry and song with his misty morning encounter with President Lincoln, we see a very different side of our favorite president.

          At 2:00, meet Louisa May Alcott, the beloved author whose children books made her one of America’s most famous writers.  Leslie Goddard portrays Alcott in a program that draws from Alcott’s own diaries, books, and letters to bring the passionate, humorous, and progressive author to life.  In 2018, the beloved novel Little Women celebrated its 150th birthday with both a Broadway and Hollywood production.  As Miss Alcott shares stories about the creation of Little Women, she also reminisces about her life, including her poverty-stricken childhood, her struggles to succeed as a writer, and the unexpected, phenomenal success of Little Women in 1868.  Her father was friends with Walt Whitman and her writing had a direct influence on Laura Ingalls Wilder!

          At 3:30 p.m., Little House on the Prairie comes to life when its author Mrs. Wilder takes the stage to share stories of growing up in what was then the western wilderness of the middle west.  Laura Keyes is a widely respected storyteller and historian who also happens to be a library director with a deep love for history and literature.  For her, Laura Ingalls Wilder is more than a hero from history, she is an inspiration for all of us who wish to preserve our family stories, and in so doing share an intimate glimpse of history as we have lived it.

          The programs are spaced a little further apart this year to allow time for transitions and to sanitize.  We will also be following state mandated standards with family groups spaced 6-10 feet apart.  Masks are required for the audience and social distancing is strongly encouraged. You are also encouraged to bring your own lawn chairs.  The town park provides plenty of room for folks to keep their distance and yet be able to see and hear everything.

Reservations are also required since we are limited to 50 people per performance.  Please call the Bishop Hill Heritage Association to reserve your seats for all or any one of the 3 programs: 309-927-3899.  You can also email the BHHA at to reserve your spot.  Walk-ins will not be allowed.

          Since seating is so limited, we will also be hosting a live streaming event the following week with several more performers from across the country.  Folks can register via the Bishop Hill Heritage Association, Heartland Sound Connections, or The Bishop Hill Creative Commons Facebook pages.  Programs will run Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings, August 25, 26, 27, with performances at 7 and 8 pm.

          The Bishop Hill Chautauqua is a free event sponsored by the Bishop Hill Heritage Association, The Twinflower Inn, Fox Tales International, Geneseo Community Foundation, Bill and Susan Sherrard Foundation, and by generous donations of people like you.  This program is also partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.  Thank you to the Bishop Hill State Historic Site for their assistance.  Folks can come early to enjoy the restaurants, shops, and museums of Bishop Hill and plan to stay for dinner at P.L. Johnson’s after the show.  For more information, call 309-927-3899, visit, or email .