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Chautauqua Festival celebrates history, community

WINDER - Barrow County will celebrate history, heritage and community Saturday at the third annual Chautauqua Festival.

Chautauqua is an ancient native American tradition. The first Americans set aside a group of days to gather and retell their history and pass down skills and customs to their young.

Contemporary Chautauqua was founded in 1874 by a businessman and a Methodist minister on Lake Chautauqua in New York state as a Sunday school teacher training program. Over the years, that program evolved into a camp meeting circuit that brought families from all around for a few days of festivities, lectures and music. At its pinnacle in the 1920s, Chautauqua was celebrated in almost every state in the nation.

Winder's Chautauqua is designed around the history of the Cherokee and Creek Indians who lived in the area and called it Snoddon Village. This year's celebration honors World War II and Korean War veterans. Craftsmen, food vendors and entertainers are coming from all over the southeast region, as well as Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

More than 7,000 people attended the 2005 festival, in spite of the August heat.

"Attendance last year quadrupled over the year before," said Sherrie Miller, Winder's downtown development director and festival organizer.

Three stages will provide entertainment all day. Traditional American Indian music and dance competitions will take place all day on one stage. A second stage will host contemporary entertainment, including the 116th Military Band. A third stage inside the Community Center will feature classical string performers.

In keeping with the Chautauqua tradition, Winder's festival promotes learning. Skilled craftsmen from the Barrow County Historical Society, the East Georgia Genealogical Society and others will demonstrate spinning, weaving, arrowhead carving, wheel-thrown pottery, glass-bead making and how to find water with a dousing rod. Blake Pierce of Winder will present the Gettysburg Address in a coat with tails and a stove pipe hat.

Barbecue, smoked turkey legs, traditional Native American food, snow cones, funnel cakes, Polish sausage, hamburgers and hot dogs will keep attendees full.

Joe Watkins and his horse-drawn wagon will be pleased to shuttle tired attendees around the festival or to nearby drop-off stations.

"No matter what their age, anyone can come to the Chautauqua Festival and be entertained and fascinated," Miller said. "We can celebrate a way of life that is gone forever."

n What: Chautauqua Festival

•When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Saturday

•Where: East Athens and Broad Streets in downtown Winder