The original Chautauqua in Madison dates back to 1901, when ten-day camp meetings gave Sunday school teachers a chance to mix their religious studies with recreation. The Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle provided correspondence schooling to adults in rural areas. The outdoor Chautauqua grew to include not only morally inspiring sermons but informative lectures, scientific demonstrations, political speeches, dramatic readings, theatrical presentations, magic acts, and musical performances. These annual camp meetings were held until 1929.
In the early 1970s, local high school teachers and students participated in a sidewalk art sale with the aim of bringing more business to the downtown area. The event grew, adopted the name Madison Chautauqua, and continues to thrive and grow today. On the last full weekend in September of each year, Madison’s historic district welcomes thousands of visitors during the two-day Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art. The festival is a juried fine arts and crafts show with approximately 250 exhibitors.
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