Imagine the difficulties of moving your family half-way around the world, walking from Chicago to Bishop Hill carrying all of your worldly possessions, and then carving out a home in the wilderness that was Western Illinois. Imagine what kind of political, religious or economic turmoil would put your family at risk so much so that you would leave behind everything you love to start over in a new land.

Imagine no more. Bishop Hill’s Fourth Annual Chautauqua will explore the stories of America’s immigrant history Saturday and Sunday August 27th and 28th in the town square.

Artistic Director Brian “Fox” Ellis said, “These are the stories of your grandparents or great-great grandparents. America’s story is the immigrant’s story.” Meet the Swedish Nightingale Jenni Lind, hear the stories of Irish Immigrants who built our railroads and dug our canals, travel west with Laura Ingalls Wilder, and discuss modern immigration issues with two recent immigrants. On Sunday afternoon we will premiere a new show commissioned for this event: Jonas Olson will tell the story of the Swedes who founded Bishop Hill recreating a moment 120 years ago as Jonas neared his 94th birthday and Bishop Hill celebrated it’s 50th anniversary. Students from Williamsfield Schools will also be performing. And there is a workshop Saturday Morning at 10:00 in the Dairy Building to help you learn to tell your stories. Chautauqua performance run from 1:00 to 4:30 pm both days.

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 a 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 gazebo in Bishop Hill’s town square, 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 three restaurants, visit museums and craft shops.

This free public event is sponsored by the Bishop Hill Heritage Association, Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, Bill and Susan Sherrard Foundation, the Swedish Council of America, private donations, and the Twinflower Inn Bed and Breakfast.  For more information, call 309 927-3899, visit or email .


For More information or to schedule an interview please contact

Brian “Fox” Ellis                    OR                          Todd Dedecker

309-696-1017                                                         309-927-3899                             



Bishop Hill Chautauqua Schedule

Saturday, August 27

10 a.m.   A workshop for Teachers, Actors, Storytellers

and Students on “Storytelling for Children” exploring

literacy development with Brian “Fox” Ellis and

Tersi Bendiburg in the Steeple Building.

12:00 Lunch at one of three local restaurants

1:00 pm An Irish Immigrant’s Tale

with Brian “Fox” Ellis

2:15 pm  Two Modern Immigrants

Cuban Storyteller Tersi Bendiburg &

Tunisian Bradley Professor Souhail Elhouar PhD.

3:30pm  Jenny Lind

The Swedish Nightingale (Sherri Mitchell)


Sunday, August 28

12:00 Lunch at one of three local restaurants

1:00 pm Laura Ingalls Wilder

America’s Emigration West (Sarah Uthoff)

2:15 p.m. Williamsfield Students perform as historical figures

3:30 pm Jonas Olson: A Bishop Hill Founding Father (Brian “Fox” Ellis)


This FREE event will be held in the village square in Bishop Hill, IL.

Bring a Lawn Chair, bring the grandkids, bring a friend.

Come early to enjoy the shops, museums, and three restaurants of Bishop Hill!

Call 309 927-3899 for more details