Chautauqua Wawasee celebrates 130 years of the Oakwood Park tradition.

For the past 12 years, Chautauqua Wawasee has offered life-enriching programs while continuing the 130-year Oakwood Park tradition. In 1893, Oakwood Park became a permanent camp meeting ground when purchased by the Indiana Conference of the Evangelical Church, succeeded by the Evangelical United Brethren Church and later the United Methodist Church. James S. Hook, the author of Oakwood’s First Century 1893-1993, said that the history of Oakwood Park is about “lives changed, lives enriched, vows made, relationships developed, dreams encouraged, hopes renewed, prayers said and the spiritual experienced.”

With the philanthropic commitment of Howard Brembeck, in 1993 the Oakwood Foundation received Oakwood Park’s hotel and other properties. The Foundation continued Oakwood Park’s long tradition as a recreational, cultural, and spiritual retreat center. Falling upon difficult financial times, the Foundation was placed into receivership from which the hotel and other properties were sold. During this time, the Oakwood Park tradition began its third life with the creation of Chautauqua Wawasee.

Lake Wawasee resident Ann Strong Wade was familiar with the Chautauqua Institution in New York, which also started as a Methodist church camp in 1874 and has its own traditions based upon four pillars (arts, education, religion, and recreation). At this time, Ann envisioned the possibility of having a Chautauqua-like organization in Syracuse and founded Chautauqua Wawasee. After three years of planning with the support of the receiver, Ann’s vision became a reality in 2011, with 14 events held over two weekends. In 2014, Chautauqua Wawasee was merged with the Oakwood Foundation as an independent non-profit organization. Ann has served on the organization’s board of directors since then.

Ann Strong Wade

Over the past 12 years, Chautauqua Wawasee has hosted or participated in over 120 programs. Events are based upon the four Chautauqua pillars with a mission to help make Syracuse and the region a great place to visit, live, work and raise a family. Chautauqua Wawasee adds new programs every year, reviews participant’s feedback, and maintains favorite past events including core programs such as the Oakwood Fine Art Festival, Patriotic Speaker series and Patriotic Pops concert, local history series, and Old-Fashioned Christmas.

The following is a list of all events over the past 12 years:

7/1 Children’s choir, balloon glow
7/2 Balloon race, flotilla run, Wawasee Days speaker, Ft. Wayne Philharmonic
7/3 Worship service, community picnic, Reimagining America program
7/16 Wawasee Days speaker, music performance
7/17 Worship service, Reimagining America program, campfire/sing along

7/19 Artistic evenings – Larry Rudolech
7/21 Hobby shop for children
7/21 The Ground Up – Jack Elam
7/22 Neighbors in our World series, Quaker religion – Jim McAdams
7/26 Artistic evenings – Douglas Grant
7/28 Hobby shop for children
7/28 Show N Tell
7/29 Neighbors in our World series, Amish faith – Susan Miller

7/21 Grassroots peacemaking in the Middle East from a Christian perspective-John Lapp
7/28 Muslim-Christian dialogue – Amir J. Tamir Rasheed & Dr. Terry Anderson, facilitated by Dr. L Michael Spath
8/4 How people of different faiths can work together for the common good – Dr. Kent Millard

5/30 Wine, Cheese & Chocolate Experience
6/28 Art Blast
6/28 Ft. Wayne Philharmonic Patriotic Pops Concert
7/4 Flotilla Road Race
7/7-7/11 Chautauqua Week
7/7 Past, present & preservation adventure, two-piano recital with dynamic duo Marianne Tobias and Anita Cast.
7/8 Peace pole project, Creative Fish, finding peace while searching for God – Rev. John Denson, Lunch & lecture with Ron Manahan, Knitting 101, Jazz performance with Kevin Piekarski & Dave Latchaw.
7/9 Building for tomorrow – George Srour, lunch & lecture – Dr. Welling Hall, Felted Flowers with Michelle, Sons of Bill outdoor concert
7/10 Peace pole project, Creative Fish (part 2), Is peace possible – R. Scott Appleby, Lunch & lecture Jim Brennaman, needle fleeting with Michelle, The Schmidts & First Love performance
7/11 Interfaith lecture, the religious scientific dialogue: how to debate ideas, Frank Levinson, Nate Bosch, Brian Murphy, Past, Present & preservation adventure Lillypad cruise – part 2
7/11-13 Paint Out
7/12 Tour Des Lakes Cycling
7/26 Hope Floats – Cardboard Boat Regatta
9/6 Oakwood Fine Arts Festival
10/11 OAKtoberfest

4/23 The promise and peril of human enhancement: will technology put an end to disability?
5/22 Josh Kaufman in concert
6/16 Learn what motivates and gives you meaning: the power of archetypes
7/5 Ft. Wayne Philharmonic concert
7/11 Tour des Lakes Cycling Adventure

7/23 Chautauqua on the Lawn: Multicultural musical experience with saxophonist George Wolfe & pianist James Helton
8/15 Holly Combs: Don’t label me!
9/12 Oakwood Fine Arts Festival
10/3 OAKtoberfest
10/11-13 Finding spiritual gold in the second half of life with Kaye Lindauer

4/15 Purdue Varsity Glee Club performance
5/27 Wine, Cheese & Chocolate experience
6/28 Ft. Wayne Philharmonic concert
7/4 Flotilla Road Race
7/9 Tour des Lakes
8/27 Oakwood Fine Arts Festival

4/10-15 RemedyLive schooled tour
5/15-20 Family series week
6/2 Wine, Cheese & Chocolate experience
6/5-8 Teen Comedy Improv camp
7/2 Ft. Wayne Philharmonic pops concert
7/4 Flotilla road race
7/6-7 iPhone photography seminar
8/26 Oakwood Fine Arts Festival
10/13 Purdue Varsity Glee Club
10/15 Lillypad Fall Color Tour
10/15-19 Chautauqua week
11/7 1 st Annual Chautauqua celebration

4/16 Bruised reeds & smoldering wicks – Chris Haughee
6/27 Ft. Wayne Philharmonic Patriotic concert
6/30 Oakwood SummerFest
7/13-15 Plein air painting
8/24 Art festival – wine reception
8/25 Oakwood fine arts festival
9/7-9 1 st annual Wawasee jazz party
10/1 Celebrate Chautauqua banquet
10/19 Funny & Alone – Bobby Bones
10/20 You’re not alone – Becky Savage

1/25 Winter Carnival Dance.
1/25-6 Winter Carnival

3/15 Zumba Party Oakwood Banquet Hall
3/15 Preventing Loss -Drug Prevention Program to Four High Schools convocations.
5/23 LillyPad Wawasee Cruise.
6/22 Oakwood Fine Arts Festival
6/15 Patriotic Pops Concert
9/5 Algonquin inhabitants of Indiana’s Forest – Joe Krom
9/6 Prehistory of northeast Indiana and the Midwest – Steve Hart
9/7 J.P. Dolan Native American Collection – Jamie Clemons, Ann Garceau, Jeff Mesaros
10/15 LillyPad Fall Color Tour
11/15 Being Mortal book discussion – Atul Gawande
11/30 Old-fashioned Christmas

1/24 The Book of Joy book discussion
2/8 Gardening in the face of a changing climate
2/20 Chair yoga for seniors
6/28 Patriotic pops concert (canceled due to covid)
7/30 Enhanced fitness for seniors with Parkview Y (canceled)
7/31 Historical “Then and Now” Lake Wawasee cruise
8/15 Oakwood fine arts festival
8/26 Mapping Indiana’s suffrage history
8/29 Woman’s suffrage centennial ice cream social
9/3 Elm bark canoe construction
9/4 Native American artifacts (weapons, tools & more)
9/5 Legends, lore & legacies of Northeast Indians
9/5 Hoosier suffragists who raised a ruckus
10/10 Lake Wawasee “Did you know?” fall cruise
10/23 Purdue Varsity Glee Club (canceled)
10/27 Fall prevention with Parkview Health (canceled)
11/28 Old Fashioned Christmas (canceled)

4/24 Gardening in the face of a changing climate – John Edgerton
5/1 WACF’s earth day
5/20 Historical Lake Wawasee cruise
5/30 Taps across the water
6/12 Oakwood Wawasee fine arts festival
6/27 Chautauqua patriot’s day: Abraham Lincoln talk
6/27 Chautauqua patriot’s day: Ft. Wayne Philharmonic pops concert
7/15 Lake fun
8/7 Chautauqua lakes film festival
9/2 Native American history of Northern Indiana
9/3 Kosciusko County: Paleo to Potawatomi
9/4 Native American history

10/6 Resurrection Peacemaking: Are we bold enough? – Cliff Kindy
10/7 “Then & Now” Lake Wawasee historical cruise
11/27 Old-fashioned Christmas

4/22 Purdue Varsity Glee Club
4/30 WACF earth day
5/19 Lake Wawasee “points of interest” historical cruise
5/29 Taps across the water as dusk
6/26 Patriot’s Day talk-Thomas Jefferson
6/26 Patriot’s Day pops concert – Ft. Wayne Philharmonic
8/6 Family fun film festival
9/1 Using maps to unlock the past
9/2 Reenacting Richard Stone’s journal
9/3 Northern Indiana history
9/27-29 Chautauqua trails annual meeting
9/28 Kindy workshop
9/29 Lake Wawasee “Then & Now” historical cruise
11/26 Old-fashioned Christmas

Chautauqua Wawasee Programs Set for 2023

By: Mark Knecht, President, Chautauqua Wawasee

After many months of planning, the 2023 programs are now set. All the favorite annual programs are returning, plus a number of new ones. The intent is to balance programs across the four Chautauqua pillars (Arts, Education, Faith, and Recreation). Here is a snapshot.

The 2023 season begins February 10 with the Ball State University Singers whose newest member is Syracuse’s own Devin Van Lue! The Purdue Varsity Glee Club performs in Syracuse every other year and will return in 2024.

In April, Michael Spath will lead a 3-day series to be held in Goshen. The first of the three programs is titled Religion Before Adam & Eve, followed by The Creation of Modern Religion, and the third program Religion: Present & Future. The series explores why understanding religion is important for our faith today, as we continue to search for meaning and understanding of our place in the universe.

In May, the popular S.S. Lilypad Points of Interest Historical Cruise returns, narrated during Wawasee cruise by local historian Ann Garceau. The Wawasee Fine Arts Festival returns for the 9th year at Oakwood, followed by the annual Taps Across the Water Memorial Day weekend tribute to veterans and those who’ve sacrificed their lives for America’s freedom. To celebrate Independence Day, Abagail Adams and Martha Washington present First Ladies, First!, performed by Kim Hanley and Carol Spacht, members of the American Historical Theatre. Later the same day, the annual Fort Wayne Philharmonic Patriotic Pops concert will perform on the lawn of the Oakwood Resort Inn.

In July, a new program titled Wawasee – Walk Down Memory Lane, will be of particular interest to those who have a long history with Syracuse and/or Wawasee. The program will feature three old film clips: a 1937 film cruising around Wawasee’s shoreline, a Spinks Hotel promotion, and short clip of the Chinese Gardens. After viewing the film clips, attendees will have the option (via an open microphone) to share memories. Also, old family home movies will be solicited for showing at a 2024 program.

In August, Chautauqua’s family fun phone videos program returns at the Pickwick with the expectation of a record number of fun clips of dogs, kids, moms, dads and all kind of family silliness. Then, on Labor Day weekend the Digging Through Indiana History 3-Day Series will feature T.J. Honeycutt presenting information about the Treaty of Paradise Spring, and author Lynn Brown will present information from her book Furs and Fevers. The following week, two Miami Nation Elders, Diane Hunter and Dani Tippman, will talk about the history of Miami people, their stories, and their use of plants as food and

November features two programs: We all say we love nature, but Does Nature Love You Back? Cliff Kindy, John Edgerton and Dani Tippman will facilitate a workshop exploring how plants teach us, feed us and heal us, and provide plants to touch, smell and maybe taste. The 2023 season ends with the annual community favorite Old Fashioned Christmas in Oakwood.


Stay in touch with ChautauquaWawasee on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, or get added to their e-newsletter list.

Here is your chance to show us family fun and see yourself ON THE BIG SCREEN!


We are providing a permanent link to upload your fun family videos if you wish to be included in our film festival this year!  The Film Festival is a collection of personal phone videos of individuals, friends or family having fun on the water or around their home. The videos are provided to Chautauqua Wawasee (CHQW) who will edit each to a short duration and combine with other videos for a one-time show on Saturday, August 5, from 10:00am to noon at the Pickwick Theater in Syracuse.


All individual submitters will receive a Chautauqua-Wawasee T-shirt (one per family). These will be handed out at the event, August 5!

Click HERE to upload your videos today!

Questions: Contact Debbie: (574)-377-7543

Join us for a powerful celebration of faith, hope, laughter and love with a sparkling performance from the Ball State University Singers showcasing music that is encouraging, uplifting, and inspiring!

Friday February 10th, 6pm-7:30pm
Wawasee High School Auditorium
1 Warrior Path, Syracuse

General admission seats and VIP seating is available.

Click HERE to purchase tickets.

Yes, there was a Huge Turnout for Old Fashioned Christmas! And oh what a night! The weather was perfect so families turned out in throngs for the 3 rd annual event that starts the Christmas season. Families began arriving at 5:30 to enjoy Christmas music, receive a glow stick, a program with activity map, and take pictures with holiday characters such as Frosty, Gingerbread Man, Grinch, Toy Soldier, elves, and others. None of the activities were available to enjoy until after the Big Tree lighting. So, anticipation was high for a visit with Santa for children, pictures at the family fun photo booth, listening to “The Night Before Christmas” read by an elf, visiting the live reindeer, and taking the horse-drawn wagon ride around the park. The live nativity had both reverent observers and those who came up to observe the baby Jesus closely. The Chapel was a warm refuge to hear the Bible reading of the true Christmas Story. And like every year, cookies, hot cocoa and s’mores were consumed by the warmth of a fire pit.

And there were some changes this year. The most obvious was the 20×40 foot stage that was loaned by the Nappanee Chamber of Commerce. This enabled two musical groups, The Chain Gang and Winona Lake Brass Quintet, to be more visible and to be heard. Phil Metcalf again served as the Master of Ceremonies. Another new element was the t-shirt toss by the Grinch (Tami Schumm) who threw out twenty green Chautauqua Wawasee kids t-shirts from the stage to screaming children. Also new was the wagon ride, which replaced the sleigh ride. Due to its large capacity, more peoplewere able to enjoy the ride pulled by two horses. But what about the lighting of the 70-foot tree? Anticipation was high as 6:15 approached for the lighting and countdown. Oakwood Resort owners, Dr. Rex Parent and his wife Connie, had the honor this year to lead the countdown with the entire crowd joining in: ten, nine, eight….one, MERRY CHRISTMAS…and the huge tree sprang to colorful life as everyone sang We Wish You a Merry Christmas, We Wish You a Merry Christmas…and Happy New Year.

Chautauqua-Wawasee organizes Old Fashioned Christmas as a free gift to the community with active participation from the Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation, Syracuse Parks Department, Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber of Commerce, Syracuse-Wawasee Historical Museum, Wawasee Property Owners Association, Rotary, Oakwood Resort, Nappanee Chamber of Commerce, Wawasee High School Tech Department. Kip Schumm is the Program Manager who orchestrates the huge effort in recruiting vendors, 70+ volunteers, and partners. And thanks to these businesses who contributed: Jasper Plastics, Bass Audiology, The Papers Inc., Los Toritos Mexican Restaurant, Man Cave Brewing, Pickwick Theater, Colbin Tool Co. and WPOA.

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. 

2022 Chautauqua Wawasee Old Fashioned Christmas Celebration

Chautauqua Wawasee Old Fashioned Christmas Celebration – 2022

Chautauqua-Wawasee’s annual event for mom, dad, grandpa, grandma, and kids of all ages!

Santa, live nativity, Grinch, Frosty, plus other characters, chapel reading of the Christmas story, live reindeer, musical groups, family photo booth, caroling, and more!  Come early to enjoy the music and festivities.

What: Outdoor family Event – dress for warmth
When: November 26, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Where: Oakwood Resort, Syracuse, Indiana
Cost: Free

Visit our Facebook page or call 574-377-7543 for more details.



The Chautauqua movement began in the 1870s. Teddy Roosevelt hailed it as “the most American thing in America.”

On September 27-30, we will host the annual gathering of the 19 North American Chautauqua organizations at the Oakwood Resort. During the meetings, the Chautauqua organizations report on their activities and share common experiences.

See More

Northern American History Series

Chautauqua-Wawasee and the Syracuse-Wawasee Historical Museum are once again collaborating to offer a 3-day series of educational and entertaining programs focused on northern Indiana native American history. All programs are free to attend.

Thursday, September 1- 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Using Maps to Unlock the Past (1866 – 1903)

As Kosciusko County Surveyor, Mike Kissinger, has done a great deal of historical research and will share his findings and interest in Kosciusko County and the lakes area. Of special interest are old maps, Indian reservations, old schools/homes, and the stories of past residents.

About the Presenter: Mike Kissinger

Mike is a lifetime resident of the North Webster area and lives on the property that family acquired from the U.S. government in 1845. A 1979 graduate of Wawasee High School, he has worked in the County Surveyor’s Office for the past 41 years, Mike was licensed as a Professional Surveyor in 1999 and was selected as the County Surveyor when his friend & mentor, Richard Kemper, retired in 2015.


Friday, September 2- 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Reenacting Richard Stone’s Journal (1827-1842)

In 1827, as some of the first white settlers in Noble County, Richard Stone and his family set up a trading post at the junction of two highly traveled trails, known today as U.S. 33 & SR 5. The Indian village of Chiefs Papakeechie and Wawasee was just six miles away. Using Richard Stone’s journal, reenactor Jim Hossler will relate the life and times at the newly established trading post.

About the Presenter: Jim Hossler

Jim has lived in Noble County for the last 30 years. He has been a member of Stone’s Trace Historical Society for the last past 14 years, and the President for the last 9 years. Stone’s Trace is a historic site in Noble County that has restored Richard Stone’s tavern and three other pre-Civil War buildings. He and his wife, Pam, have five children and six grandchildren. He says “I’ve always enjoyed history, and I love teaching the kids and the people about Stone’s Trace.” Read more at A “Vintage Christmas” is planned for December 3, 1:00 –4:00pm. Jim owns and operates a small trucking company.



Saturday, September 3-  SIX individual programs are listed below 

Bring Your Own Artifact 10:00 – Noon /Led by Jim Bickel & Michelle Eddington

Do you have an old artifact that you aren’t sure what it is or when/where it originated? Jim and Michelle are available to examine your artifact and
(hopefully) tell you all about it.

Tribute to the Eastern Woodland Natives 10:00 – Noon /Led by Dan Lima, reenactor of Eastern Woodland Natives

Veteran reenactor Dan Lima will delight you with the lives of Potawatomi Chief Five Medals and Miami Chief Wawasee and his brother Chief
Papakeecha whose reservation was located near present-day Indian Village in Noble County.

 “Life and Times of Five Medals” discussion 10:00 – Noon  /Led by Mike Judson at WACF Amphitheater

Mike Judson, president of Five Medals Living History, Inc., will discuss the life and times of the Elkhart River Potawatomi Chief Wonongaseah (a.k.a. Five Medals).  Five Medals led his people in the defense of their homeland from the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 to the War of 1812.

1774 French Marine 10:00 – Noon /Led by Joe Zdziebko

Joe Zdziebko, dressed as a 1750s French Marine will display and discuss his equipment, uniform, musket, furs, maps, etc. He will also talk about old
sayings that are still used today.

Flintknapping Hands-on Demonstration 10:00 – Noon /Led by Jeff Mesaros

Want to know how native American artifacts were made by hand? Jeff Mesaros will show you how. And here’s your chance to try making one!

Atlatl Weapon Demonstration 10:00 – Noon /Led by Jamie Clemons

The atlatl was a tool that uses leverage to achieve greater velocity in dart or spear-throwing and includes a bearing surface that allows the user to
store energy during the throw. Jamie will be demonstrating types from around the nation and allowing the public to participate with samples.


Details: or

Over Memorial Day weekend, Chautauqua Wawasee and Syracuse American Legion Post 223 hosted the second annual “Taps Across the Water” to honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.

The following local men gave the last full measure of devotion to our country:


Civil War:

Hiram Bonner, John Bonner, Joseph Clemens, George Epert, George Gordy, Thomas Orr, David Snyder, Andrew Tom, James Veneman, Andrew Maloy, and Cyrus Weaver


World War 1:

Phil Garriott, Hugh Sloan, Fred Smeltzer, Bryan Vanpherson, and John Wilbur Wilkinson.


World War 2:

Curtis Bushong, Ernest Miller, Charles LeCount, Robert LeCount, Richard Ruple, Edward Whirledge, and Paul Thomas Xanders.


Korean era:

Carlyle Bob Weaver.


Vietnam War:

Max Irwin Baer, Dennis Lee Brock, Robert Wayne Ellis, Jerry Denver Thomas, and Kenneth Eugene Willard.


Second Iraq war:

Jim Snyder.


…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg, November 19, 1863.