Five Things You Should Know About Chautauqua-Wawasee – An interview from The Mail-Journal with Mark Knecht

Five Things You Should Know About Chautauqua-Wawasee

The Mail-Journal recently sat down with Mark Knecht, the President of Chautauqua-Wawasee, to talk about their organization and future plans.

Mail-Journal: What do you want readers to know about Chautauqua?

Knecht: Well, a lot of people don’t know who we are and what we do, so that would be a good place to start.

Mail-Journal: Ok, let’s start with that.

Knecht: Our primary goal is to help make Syracuse and the region a great place to visit, work, live and raise a family. We try to do this by offering unique programs consistent with the four Chautauqua pillars: Arts, Education, Faith and Recreation.

Mail-Journal: That’s a very broad scope. How do you decide on programming with the pillars?

Knecht: Yes, it is very broad. So, we try to pick specific voids no one else is providing. For example, we have a Patriotic Speaker series around July 4. We brought an Abe Lincoln re-enactor one year, Thomas Jefferson this year and next year it will be Abagail Adams and Martha Washington. We’re excited!

Mail-Journal: Does Chautauqua-Wawasee do this all on its own?

Knecht: No. our goal is always to partner with another organization or two or sometimes more. As an example, for our Old Fashioned Christmas program, we team with the Town of Syracuse, the Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber of Commerce, the Syracuse-Wawasee Historical Museum, Syracuse Rotary Club, Boy Scouts, Oakwood Resort and Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation. It’s a huge effort led by Kip Schumm. Nearly 1,000 people attended in 2021. It’s always best to work as a team.

Mail-Journal: That makes sense. Looking back on 2022, what are you particularly proud of?

Knecht: Oh, that’s a tough one. The Fine Arts Festival is very successful. But I’d say I heard more comments about “Taps Across the Water at Dusk” program than any other program. We still have some areas on the three lakes where people have come out to listen, and couldn’t hear it. We’ve got to work on that again next year…The wind is a big factor affecting how far sound travels.

Mail-Journal: What kind of programs do you have in the Faith Pillar?

Knecht: This year Cliff Kindy is conducting a workshop around the question “what if Christians were as passionate about peace as warfighters are about war”. Cliff is an amazing person who lives his faith. He’s traveled to dangerous trouble spots around the world with Christian Peacekeeper Teams and will share some of his stories and experiences on September 28 as part of the National Chautauqua Conference meetings.

Mail-Journal: What’s that all about?

Knecht: We will be hosting the National Conference of North American Chautauqua organizations at the end of September. Chautauqua-Wawasee is one of 19 independent Chautauqua organizations. We all get together once a year to share ideas and learn from each other. This is the first time the National Conference is being held here in Syracuse.

Mail-Journal: How does Chautauqua-Wawasee function, since most of its programs are free to attend?

Knecht: 95% of the work is done by volunteers…Chautauqua’s and the partners we team with. We want as many people as possible to have access to our programs, so making them free to attend works best. Our funding comes from the Howard and Myra Brembeck Foundation, Kosciusko County Community Foundation, Harkless Foundation, Lilly Foundation and from donations received during our annual fundraising campaign.

Mail-Journal: How do people learn about the programs and events you offer?

Knecht: We publish an e-newsletter called “Five Things You Should Know” …five times a year. It’s a quick read. Our website, is always up-to-date, and we regularly post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



Thank you to The Mail-Journal for allowing us to post this article.