Chautauqua comes to Heritage Park Tuesday
June 12, 2014
Three figures from Nevada and American history will be brought back to life by performances from Carson Valley students on Tuesday when the annual Chautauqua in the Park is held at Heritage Park.
The Young Chautauqua performers will put on their blending of theater and history at 6:30 p.m. in a program that is free of charge to the public.
Peformances in the past have been held at Mormon Station State Park in Genoa, however, Douglas County Historical Society Education Director Iris Blaisdell said was moved to Heritage Park this year to provide a more central location.
"It's a lot of fun," said Blaisdell, who has served as director of the Young Chautauqua program since 2012. "People are welcome to bring their picnic lunch and just come out to see these kids."
The presentations will be given by:
■ August James, 10, Minden Elementary School student, will portray Meriweather Lewis, an explorer and soldier who led the Lewis & Clark Expedition of 1804-06 that chartered lands of the Louisiana Purchase all the way to the Pacific Coast;
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■ Sandia Johnson, 12, a homeschooled student who is just completing her sixth grade year, will portray Sarah Olds, who lived on a homestead near Pyramid at the turn of the 20th century and wrote "Twenty Miles From a Match;"
■ Emily Willis, 13, a homeschooled student who is just completing her seventh grade year, will portray Dat-So-La-Lee, legendary Washoe basket weaver who is believed to have been born around 1829 near Sheridan.
The students began extensive work on their projects in January, volunteer assistant Barbara Byington explained. They have met every other week for one hour to research their character and prepare for the performances.
"They have to research the person, they might read six or seven books and go to the Internet," Byington said. "They get information together, memorize it and then they have to learn how to repeat it."
Students have prepared by performing their skit at least three times before classrooms at Carson Valley schools and service clubs.
As part of her research, Sandia interviewed Carson Valley resident John Raker, a direct descendent of Olds. "I learned country school teachers were important to her. All of her girls grew up to be school teachers," Sandia said.
August said he became interested in his subject by reading of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.
"When I was learning about him in school and learned about his expeditions, I thought he was pretty cool," August explained when asked why he chose Lewis. "I learned when he was 13, he went from Georgia to Virginia on his own."
While this is the Emily's fourth Young Chautauqua performance — she previously portrayed Golda Meir, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Queen Anna Nzinga — she says this is her favorite.
"I'm a pattern person — I like to make patterns — and she was a basket maker," she said during a recent dress rehearsal at the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center.
"I made the belt, mom made my dress and my grandparents helped because I needed brass buttons to use for props," she added of her costume, noting the buttons were believed to have been a gift from John C. Fremont.
Portraying a character from Carson Valley's past held special meaning, she explained.
"I made an appointment to go to the state museum so I could see her baskets," she said. "When I saw them in person, saw the red and black, it brought me closer to her. It gave me a better idea seeing how things were back then, and it was interesting to see how people lived around where I am."