CHAUTAUQUA - In its third roundup of Best Small Towns to Visit, Smithsonian magazine named Chautauqua number one in 2014 for the number and quality of learning opportunities available. Editors at the Smithsonian used data from Esri, a geographical information systems company, to find towns of fewer than 15,000 residents that are rich in cultural opportunities.
Chautauqua in Bloom, a season of learning throughout Chautauqua County from May 24 to June 20, celebrates tradition of lifelong and experiential learning started by Chautauqua Institution 140 years ago. Dozens of workshops will be offered during the four-week festival and include subjects like comedy, birding, music, art, brewing and wine and food pairing. Details and a schedule of workshops can be found on the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau's website, www.tourchautauqua.com.
The Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Center for Comedy and Infinity Visual and Performing Arts Center in Jamestown will partner to offer classes in improv, stand-up comedy, how to draw Lucy, and even playing the conga. Workshops will be offered again in August during the Lucille Ball Festival of Comedy, Aug. 6-10.
Johnson Estate Winery in Westfield offers a number of learning adventures that take place in the vineyards and are accompanied by food and wine tastings.
The Fenton History Center provides exercise and history lessons with Walking Tours of Jamestown beginning May 31. The two-hour tours are held each Saturday through September and change weekly to include Jamestown's Lake View Avenue, the Old Northside (current downtown area), Jamestown's Hidden Alleys and Jamestown's Early Industry.
The annual Roger Tory Peterson Bird Fest takes place in Jamestown June 6-7. Participants will explore the area where the young naturalist, author, and artist was first inspired to study nature. Roger Tory Peterson went on to author 50 Field Guides to birds and flowers that are still used throughout the world.
Beer-themed learning adventures are popular during Chautauqua in Bloom. At Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood, Head Brewer Dustin and the director of research and development will offer the opportunity to Be a Brewer for a Day. This hands-on experience lasts a full eight hours and explores the brewing process from grains to finished wort and tastings. On the subject of grains, students might choose to learn to grow Hops from pre-planting to harvesting, processing and marketing with experts at the Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory in Portland. EBC West in Fredonia and 21 Brix Winery will team up to discuss the history of brewing and winemaking, different styles of beer and wine, and flavor profiles during a five course meal paired with craft brewed beers or local wines.
The annual Bach and Beyond Music Festival presents a lively celebration of Baroque music over three days in the acoustically ideal, authentically Victorian, 1891 Fredonia Opera House. This year's program highlights the music of J.S. Bach along with his son, C.P.E. Bach and includes concertos for flute, oboe and piano. Ticket holders are invited to pre-concert conversations with Artistic Director/Conductor Grant Cooper and selected festival musicians who will discuss the essential elements of the performance, the music's historical context, and impressions and reflections of the performance's artists.
During the Chautauqua Lake Erie Art Trail's Open Studio Tours, May 24-25 and May 31-June 1, area artists will discuss their creative process. Tours are self-guided and free. Participants will meet the artists who are inspired by the landscapes along the Lake Erie shoreline to create works in painting, photography, ceramics, sculpture, and textiles. Several artists will also offer creative workshops. Photographer James Hoggard invites students into the vineyards and a cemetery for lessons on photography. Artist Audrey Kay Dowling will spend an afternoon with students drawing and painting in the natural beauty of towering rocks, caves, and an ancient forest at Panama Rocks.
With five lakes and 50 miles of Lake Erie shoreline, water is central to leisure activities in Chautauqua County. On June 14, the whole family will enjoy Marina Day at Chautauqua Marina in Mayville with water themed workshops that include a Musky fishing class, fly tying workshop for children, and a youth fishing contest. On June 21, the Great Lakes Experience Festival presents a day of education on the environment and ecology of the Great Lakes at Memorial Park in Dunkirk.
With the largest grape growing region in the U.S. outside of California, wine-themed workshops are a natural fit for Chautauqua in Bloom. Johnson Estate Winery co-owners Fred and Jennifer will guide participants on a variety of walks through vineyards and gardens with growing and gardening tips accompanied by food and wine. On June 7, they will host a Winemaker's Dinner: Romance in France with chef and cookbook author, Marc Berarducci. At Liberty Vineyards and Winery in Sheridan, owners Gary and Pam Burmaster and consulting winemaker, Bob Green, will share sold out wines from the winery's library featuring vertical tastings of Barrel-Select Noiret. Participants will see how weather conditions, aging and other factors affect a wine's flavor profile by comparing tastings from several vintage years.
The Athenaeum Hotel at Chautauqua Institution will host its annual pre-season Spring Farm-to-Table Dinner on May 30. Prepared by Executive Chef Travis Bensink, the five-course dinner features ingredients produced in Chautauqua County. Guests will dine with local farmers, winemakers and brew masters, and learn about the ingredients available in the county, how they are grown or raised, and how to source and acquire them. Each course is paired with a local wine or beer.
Additional workshops include whiskey tastings, kayaking tours, nature walks, Amish tour, and even a few lectures. Chautauqua in Bloom is promoted by the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau and held in collaboration with area businesses and educational centers.
For more information and a schedule of vacation learning events during Chautauqua in Bloom as well as throughout the year, call 1-866-908-4569 or visit the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau website at www.tourchautauqua.com.