Chautauqua tradition returns this weekend

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Stories about past Chautauquas are being told now that the Lyric has revived the prairie tradition.

This Thursday through Sunday, the theatre is presenting six professional plays along with the best in local entertainment.

Dick Warren was too young to remember the old Chautauquas ever coming to Swift Current but recalls two former residents who once traveled the showbiz circuit.

The local funeral home director says the Jones sisters, later Verda Town and Bessie Rowe, first arrived in the 1920s as musicians in an American Chautauqua.

"They used to come up from Chicago up the old Soo line into Moose Jaw and travel all over the province and all over Canada. They were part of the entertainment in the early years," Warren said.

The two sisters eventually chose to settle down in Swift Current, married and became pillars of the local arts scene. Both were regular accompanists in the annual music festival, while Verda became music director for city schools in the 1940s and early 1950s.

Dorothy Piquard attended last year's theatre festival at the Lyric. She shared her memories as a three year-old, traveling on muddy roads near Eastend to see a Chautauqua in 1928.

"I was a kid and all I can remember was Mom telling us to be quiet," she said. "Then they'd stick us out in the aisles to settle us down!"

All the excitement of the Chautauqua returns this weekend at the Lyric. Advance tickets are available at the Art Gallery of Swift Current or Pharmasave. Visit www.lyrictheatre.ca or call 774-4611.

Organizations: Verda Town, American Chautauqua

Geographic location: Swift Current, Chicago, Moose Jaw Canada

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