This year’s Chautauqua performances include Bishop Hill connected characters and other famous Swedes.  The goal is a deep dive into its Swedish heritage and the more universal story of what it means to be an American with immigrant roots.  On the afternoons of both Saturday and Sunday, August 28th and 29th, The Bishop Hill Heritage Association will host this annual free festival in the town square.

On Saturday August 28th the day begins at 10 a.m. with “A Storyteller’s Tour of Bishop Hill”, a walking tour lead by Brian “Fox” Ellis that begins at the Twinflower Inn.  The tour will last about 90 minutes, circle the town, and include stories of the founding of the town as well as some of its more colorful recent history.  At 1:00 p.m., Bucky Halker will tell the story of Joe Hill, a Swedish immigrant and labor activist who was immortalized in song.  Halker will weave together the story of Joe Hill’s life with some of the songs for which he is remembered.  At 2:00 p.m., Brian “Fox” Ellis will portray one of Bishop Hill’s Founding Fathers, Jonas Olson, who gave a leg up to Eric Janson in the Devotionalist movement in Sweden, and then helped to organize the council that managed the Bishop Hill Colony after Janson was murdered.  To finish Saturday’s performances, at 3:00 p.m., Paula Vankuren will portray the world-renowned vocalist, The Swedish Nightingale, Jenny Lind. Her performance will include songs by Frederic Mendelssohn, who had a crush on the young singer.

On Sunday, August 29, the program starts at 1:00 p.m. with Brian “Fox” Ellis portraying the scholar Peter Christian Asbjornsen, who was a friend of the Grimm Brothers and one of the first to make the connections between ecology and folklore.  At 2:00 p.m., Barry Cloyd will portray Carl Sandburg, Illinois Poet Laureate, whose sister taught at the Bishop Hill School.  At 3:00 p.m., Kay Price will bring to life Astrid Lindgren, the Swedish author of many award winning books including Pippi Longstocking. Lindgren toured the country 50 years ago and wrote insightful essays about American culture.

What is a Chautauqua anyway?  President Teddy Roosevelt once called the Chautauqua “the most uniquely American thing in America.”  Pronounced shuh-TAW-kwuh, this traditional form of entertainment is an exploration of American life and liberty. Whether you can say it easily, or not, a Chautauqua is guaranteed to provide a good time with great music and stories. Hear the true tales of what shaped us as a nation from the people who lived it.  Humor and a deeply personal perspective mean that history has never been this much fun!

All programs will be held at the newly restored gazebo in Bishop Hill’s village park, on the corners of Main Street and Bishop Hill Road, in Bishop Hill, IL. Folks are encouraged to bring a lawn chair; and plan to come early to eat lunch in one of four restaurants, to visit shops and museums.  This free public event is sponsored by the Bishop Hill Heritage Association, American-Scandinavian Foundation, Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, Bill and Susan Sherrard Foundation, SWEA-Chicago, and the Twinflower Inn Bed and Breakfast.  For more information, call 309-927-3899, visit or email .


The Bishop Hill Chautauqua Schedule:

Saturday August 28th

10 am A Storyteller’s Tour of Bishop Hill with Brian “Fox” Ellis

1:00     Joe Hill: Labor Activist with Bucky Halker

2:00     Jonas Olson: A Bishop Hill Founding Father with Brian “Fox” Ellis

3:00     Jenny Lind: The Swedish Nightingale with Paula Vankuren

Sunday, August 29th

1:00     Peter Christian Asbjornsen: Folklore and Ecology with Brian “Fox” Ellis

2:00     Carl Sandburg: Poet of the People with Barry Cloyd

3:00     Astrid Lindgren: Pippi Longstocking with Kay Price