Colorado Chautauqua was a summer program featuring a troupe of performers and artists that traveled to Colorado towns with the purpose of bringing urban culture to rural Colorado.

The original “Tent Chautauqua” circuit flourished in the early 1900’s until nearly 1940 across the United States – entertaining people with lecturers and silent movies in a tent. This page focuses on the Chautauqua program sponsored by the Colorado Council on the Arts and Humanities that started in 1969 touring Colorado towns. The original small tour grew into a much bigger concern.

Beginning in 1972 Colorado Chautauqua rolled into small Colorado towns during the summer months as a free performing and visual arts festival. The troupe desended upon towns bringing all the requisite excitement with it — erecting a hard-to-miss giant pink circus tent in a local park, with smaller auxiliary tents set up nearby to accommodate free workshops and demonstrations with visual artisans such as painters, quilters, stained glass makers, wood carvers, weavers and more. Performing artists included musicians, dancers and actors.

In many towns, the people in attendance had never been exposed to live entertainment! Some of the professional performance groups included: Rene Heredia’s Flamenco Fantasy, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, Jamie Turner (the world’s greatest saw player), Vintage Motion Pictures (with Hank Troy and Al Miller), Pat Donohue and the Colorado band Rosewood Canyon. Theatrical performers from many theater companies participated, including Germinal Stage Denver. Dance performances by the Colorado Concert Ballet and other companies filled many evenings.

The Chautauqua Apprentice Company traveled with the tour for several years performing plays, melodramas, children’s theatre plays, and musical theatre medleys as well as teaching workshopsin performance. Apprentice company members not only performed, but were also the labor – setting up and breaking down the tents. The largest Colorado Chautauqua tour happened in 1976 as part of Colorado’s Bi-Centennial celebration. The last tour occurred in 1979.

Below are a few pictures from the tours in 1976 and 1978: