Traveling variety show comes to Blaine and Birch Bay

By Oliver Lazenby

A traveling show featuring a parade, music, dance, lectures, acrobatics, juggling, singing and more is making its final stop in Blaine on the last weekend in June.

The New Old Time Chautauqua touring group will visit Birch Bay State Park on Friday, June 29 and Blaine on June 30. The event is a collaboration between Washington State Parks and the New Old Time Chautauqua, a nonprofit that travels to small towns and native nations throughout the Northwest with a mission to promote community through education, entertainment and laughter.

Chautauqua will include an open mic, drum circle, community parade and a variety show. Washington State Parks is also hosting several free workshops focused on a variety of skills such as how to crab and build a campfire.

After two days of festivities, Chautauqua wraps up with a variety show at the Blaine Schools’ performing arts center.

The summer state parks’ Chatuauqua tour has a desert, mountain and sea stop, with Birch Bay/Blaine representing the sea portion of the tour. Previous stops are at Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park in Grant County and Pearrygin Lake, Alta Lake and Conconully State Park in Okanogan County.

Chautauqua was a movement of traveling entertainment that started near Chautauqua, New York, and flourished in rural American towns from the 1870s until the 1920s. President Teddy Roosevelt is widely quoted as calling Chautauqua “the most American thing in America.”

According to the New Old Time Chautauqua’s website, “Touring Chautauqua groups presented lectures, dance, music, drama and other forms of “cultural enrichment.” Birch Bay even hosted Chautauqua events in 1911 and 1921 that included steamships bringing people up from Bellingham, said Ted Morris, head ranger at Birch Bay State Park.

“The park is a good venue to have it in and the fact that Chautauqua had history in Birch Bay was a cool coincidence,”
Morris said.

The New Old Time Chautauqua is based in Port Townsend. Many of its nearly 70 touring members live there or in Seattle and Bellingham, said Chris Bricker, a spokesperson for the group.

“You’ll see a lot of talented performers, almost on par with old time vaudeville, but with millennials,” Bricker said. “You will be delighted and amazed with not only song and dance and juggling but also comedy and laughter.”

The New Old Time Chautauqua performs beyond Washington state – they’ve toured to Alaska, New Orleans and Alberta.

Plan your visit: 

Birch Bay State park

Friday, June 29

4 p.m. – Free workshops at the BP Heron Center presented by parks staff and community partners. Topics include the history of Birch Bay State Park, demonstrations on how to build a campfire and how to catch crabs, a talk on bird photography, a beach walk, crafts for children and more.

6 p.m. – Community potluck at BP Heron Center. All are welcome. Speakers will make presentations during dinner, and music and dance will follow the potluck.

7 p.m. – Listen or join in an open mic and drum circle.

Peace Arch State Park

Saturday, June 30

Noon – Parade from Blaine Middle School to Peace Arch Historical State Park. This colorful parade will feature costumed jugglers, unicycle riders, dancers, little faeries and other merry-makers accompanied by New Old Time Chautauqua’s marching band. Local residents and community groups are encouraged to participate in the parade.

1-4 p.m. – Three sessions of interactive workshops at Peace Arch State Park, led by Chautauquas and community members on topics including juggling, acrobatics, mask-making, trash-fashion creation, samba dance and drumming, folk singing, magic, clowning, discussions on alternative energy, health education, storytelling and more. Workshops last around 45 minutes each and anyone can lead one. Contact Makaela Kroin, 360/902-8635.

7 p.m. – New Old Time Chautauqua presents the Really Big Show including music, juggling, comedy, acrobats and more at the Blaine Performing Arts Center (975 H Street, Blaine).

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