“A Chautauqua is a chance to meet important players from across the great stage of history,” artistic-director Brian “Fox” Ellis explained. “You can hear their stories and ask them questions to get an insider’s view of important events.” The public is invited to immerse themselves in history at the Bishop Hill Chautauqua on Saturday and Sunday, August 26 and 27 2023. This free reenactment event will be held in the village park gazebo in Bishop Hill, IL.

On Saturday, the event begins with A Storyteller’s Tour of Bishop Hill lead by Brian “Fox” Ellis at 9:00 a.m., starting at the park gazebo and lasting for about an hour. At 11 a.m. singer-songwriter Barry Cloyd will portray Illinois poet laureate and Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg. At noon, in the Steeple Building Museum, Margie Cain from the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum in Rock Island, will share the history of its collection in relation to Abraham Lincoln, including a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation. Bishop Hill has four places open for lunch or folks can bring a picnic basket to share with their family and friends.
At 1 p.m., Becky Stone will take the stage as the most renown conductor on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman. At 2:00, Fritz Klein will portray everyone’s favorite President, Abraham Lincoln. And at 3:00, Brian “Fox” Ellis, as Meriwether Lewis, will share the comic misadventures of the Corps of Discovery.
At 4:00 p.m., the Bishop Hill Heritage Association is hosting a fika with the performers at the park gazebo. Fika is a Swedish tradition of coffee and conversation; in this instance the audience is invited to ask questions of the historical character and of the performer.

Another new element of this year’s event is a dinner theater experience at P.L. Johnson’s Dining Room beginning at 6:00 p.m. Cloyd and Ellis will portray two French explorers in an original musical theater production, Canoe Song: The Story of the French Voyagers. Reservations are required and can be made by calling the restaurant at 309-927-3885.

Starting at 11 a.m. Sunday morning August 27, Jo Lakota and The Eagle Ridge Drum will transport the audience to the earliest days of Native American history. At 1 p.m., Paula Vankuren will sing as sweetly as the Swedish Nightingale, Jenny Lind and tell the stories of her relationships with Hans Christian Anderson and Frederic Mendel. At 2:00, Kevin Radaker, as Winston Churchill, will share the stories of World War II and his friendship with FDR. And at 3:00 p.m. Danny Fox will step into the shoes of Bob Dylan, regaling the audience with songs and stories from his classic American songbook.

This free history in person event is sponsored by the Bishop Hill Heritage Association; Illinois Arts Council Agency, a state agency, Bill and Susan Sherrard Foundation; American Rescue Plan Funds from Henry County, approved by the Henry County Board; the Twinflower Inn Bed and Breakfast; and generous donations from the community. WKEI is our major media sponsor. The audience is encouraged to bring a lawn chair. For more information, call 309-927-3899, visit www.bishophillheritage.org or email bhha@mymctc.net.