Country Events: Harness Racing, Hoedowns and More

From hoedowns to husking bees, these country events brought the rural community together for fun and fellowship.

| January 10, 2013

Long-standing lore, such as reading the clouds to predict the weather or using a divining rod to find water, enriches the traditions and culture of simple living. Author Jerry Mack Johnson offers a definitive guide of these whimsical teachings as well as practical advice for modern homesteaders in Old-Time Country Wisdom and Lore (Voyageur Press, 2011). Learn how to can fruits and vegetables, make a hammock, find the best fishing spots and more in this homespun encyclopedia of classic country know-how. Learn about the different country events that brought the rural community together in this excerpt from chapter 20, “Country Pastimes.” 

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Old-Time Country Wisdom and Lore.

Chautauqua Circuit

When the faded red of barns and the windows of small-town emporiums were enlivened by brightly colored posters announcing the coming of Chautauqua, the pulse of the countryside quickened. Anticipation of this yearly occurrence was savored as much as the actual event.

Men and boys lingered about the local railroad station, awaiting the arrival of the traveling tent company. Country lads, eager for a summer job providing excitement as well as remuneration, labored to set up the great brown tent, acted as ticket takers, or strove to protect audiences and performers from inclement weather. Armed with long poles, they gingerly elevated sagging canvas, dangerously heavy with collected rain, in an attempt to drain away the water. Failure would oftentimes result in a drenching as rents developed, but the enthusiasm of both troupers and viewers was never diluted.

Circuit Chautauqua arose independently of the Chautauqua Institution which germinated in southwestern New York State, a stationary center providing cultural nourishment for those who came from far and wide to attend. Adopting the name and idea from this source, traveling Chautauquas carried lectures, drama, and music to well over nine thousand towns throughout the country, their sojourn in any one community lasting from five days to a week or more.

When Chautauqua was in its prime, radio had not yet become common. So it was the Chautauqua circuit that satisfied the hankering of rural townsfolk for enlightenment and diversion.

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