As published in the Record-Courier, on April 4, 2016.
Written by Kelly Maile
To commemorate Brimfield’s Bicentennial this year, the Brimfield Historical Society and Kelso House Museum are planning Ohio Chautauqua week in early June and several special events throughout the year.
Building on the 19th-century tradition established on New York’s Chautauqua Lake, Ohio Chautauqua is a five-day community event that combines living history performances, music, education and audience participation.
Leading up to the event, The Brimfield Historical Society is hosting a free Ohio Chautauqua Preview Event on Thursday at the Kent American Legion’s Underwood Hall, with hors d’oeuvres and music beginning at 6:30 p.m. followed by a live performance at 7.
The event will feature a performance by scholar and actor Hank Fincken as Thomas Edison.
For more than 20 years, Fincken has toured as a living history performer in Europe, South America and the United States and has previously worked with Ohio Chautauqua.
On Thursday afternoon, Fincken also will present his one-man Thomas Edison show to Field Middle School students.
“When the person decides to be an actor, it’s not just learning the part,” said Judi Allen, curator at the Kelso House,. “They do the research themselves. They know more about the characters and chose what parts of the persons life to talk about. They invest a lot of time into these characters.”
Allen invited Kent, Ravenna, Rootstown and Brimfield chambers of commerce members, township trustees, business owners and the community to the preview event.
“We hope to give them a sense of how the program works and how it’s both interesting and entertaining,” Allen said. “Hopefully, they will see the program and once they experience it they will be a better spokesperson for the week event in June.”
Ohio Chautauqua week has been nearly two years in the making, Allen said.
Presented by Ohio Humanities, Ohio Chautauqua will take place June 7-11 on The Brimfield Historical Society grounds.
Live on stage will be actors portraying Mary Shelley on June 7, President Theodore Roosevelt on June 8, Dian Fossey June 9, Chief Cornstalk on June 10 and Marie Curie on June 11.
“I think it’s something we’ve never had in Brimfield,” Allen said. “It’s the first time this program has come to Portage County. It’s a unique way to celebrate. It’s something different. I think it will be something people will remember.”
Ohio Chautauqua week, one of the main events of Brimfield’s Bicentennial celebration, will feature morning workshops for youth, afternoon workshops for adults and living history performances each evening. There is no cost.
“The whole thing is free to the public,” Allen said. “Part of what we were wanting to do for the bicentennial is we wanted to have it so everybody can come.”
For more information about any of the events, call the Kelso House at 330-673-1058 or visit kelsohouse.org.