2011 Chautauqua Trail Launch

Posted on June 15, 2011

Representatives of North American Chautauqua organizations recently gathered to prepare for the 2011 launch of the Chautauqua Trail. Based on the concept of a heritage trail; this initiative will link member organizations and expose a broader audience to the Chautauqua model.

Members of the Chautauqua Network have discussed ways to better promote the North American Chautauqua Movement in the 21st century. Capitalizing on the growth of cultural heritage tourism and lifelong learning trends, an idea emerged. Cultural heritage tourism is one of the fastest-growing market segments in tourism and the appeal of lifelong learning continues to grow in popularity.

As discussions continued, a subcommittee was formed in July 2009 at the Chautauqua Network Annual Meeting held in Ocean Park, Maine. Subcommittee members include: Frank Gwalthney of Ocean Park, Maine, and president of the Chautauqua Network; Kathy Snavely of Mt. Gretna, Pa.; Libby Hicks of Bay View, Mich.; and Kevin Sibbring of Lakeside.

The subcommittee met numerous times via teleconference over the past year to develop the idea. In addition, the website, http://www.chautauquatrail.com was s,ecured for the purpose of promoting this initiative. It was agreed that such a website would be the ideal way to connect, inform and educate.

Last August, during the 2010 Annual Meeting held at Chautauqua Institution in New York, Kevin Sibbring, president and CEO of the Lakeside Association, delivered a presentation to attending member organizations detailing the development of this concept. A website design was revealed and discussed. 

The concept detailed a site which allows visitors to learn more about the history of the North American Chautauqua Movement, use an interactive map to identify remaining independent Chautauqua communities across the U.S. and Canada, read news about the Chautauqua Network, review a list of frequently asked questions, as well as inquire about membership in the Network.

Secondary pages will provide guests with detailed information about individual Chautauqua communities, including links to member websites, electronic documents and photos. All of the website content positions the Chautauqua Trail and its member destinations as being part of a “North American Cultural Renaissance.”

Further website benefits include strategic marketing of the contemporary Chautauqua Movement; introducing a new audience to the concept of Chautauqua and individual Chautauqua Network member organizations; encouraging individuals who may have a relationship with one to broaden their Chautauqua experience by visiting other Chautauquas; further educating North Americans on the value of the Chautauqua missions; and generating additional website traffic for each member organization.

Following the presentation, an interactive discussion led to a motion supporting the development and launch of the Chautauqua Trail website before the 2011 Annual Meeting held in Epworth Heights, Mich., this summer. It was agreed that the Chautauqua Network would help fund this initiative and the Lakeside Association would facilitate the development work.

Furthermore, a long-term promotional and content development plan will follow the launch of the site. Part of this plan would include establishing a formal speaker’s bureau to promote the Chautauqua Trail and marketing the site through college and university continuing education programs.

Work on the site will continue through the summer as specific launch activities are planned. Stay tuned for further details about the Chautauqua Trail website launch.