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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

That’s the way it was: Chautauqua brings the ’50s and ’60s to life

Sep 03, 2019 11:46AM ● By Debra Dobbins

Chautauquans bring the magic and turbulence of the ’50s and ’60s to life on September 13-14 at the Avalon Theatre.

The theme of this year’s Colorado West Chautauqua festival is “That’s the Way It Was,” a tribute to some of the icons of the Baby Boomer generation. This two-day event, sponsored by the Museums of Western Colorado (MWC) and Colorado Humanities, features professional actors (Chautauquans) who portray prominent people in history and thrust lesser-known figures into the spotlight. They’re also historians who have researched their characters thoroughly.

“We’ve always had great themes for our Chautauquas but this year is extra special,” said MWC Interim Director Kay Fiegel. “We are featuring icons from the 1950s and 1960s. Julia Child, Walt Disney and Walter Cronkite will come to life in a fun, enjoyable and family-friendly way!”

Dressed in costume, Chautauquans engage audiences with lively monologues and question-and-answer discussions with their character. They also provide insight into historical study that may explore how events from that person’s life correspond to our own lives.

The Grand Valley History Players and Young Chautauquans join the professionals in portraying stellar personalities such as Minnie Pearl, Bea Arthur and Zelda Fitzgerald.

“Lectures and reading can be very flat," Fiegel said. "Chautauqua is very interactive, which leads to greater learning. What a great way to delve into the past!”

The festival weekend kicks off with an evening concert at Las Colonias on Thursday, September 12. The performer? None other than swiveled-hipped Elvis Presley. Doors open at 6 p.m. Show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $9.50 and can be purchased at

Get to know this year’s characters


Walter Cronkite portrayed by Larry Bounds

Walter Cronkite became the most popular network television anchorman of the ’60s. In fact, the term "anchorman" was originated for him. As such, he was personally involved with the most significant news events of this turbulent time in America's history. Look into presidential elections, assassinations, Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the space race, and even the arrival of The Beatles and there was Walter Cronkite's voice telling America the way it was.

What made him so trustworthy?

“It was his graciousness,” actor Larry Bounds said, “and the fact that he never put on any pretenses.”

Bounds has appeared as a Chautauqua scholar since 2005 in memorable presentations such as Harry Houdini, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Davy Crockett and Walt Disney. When he’s not reading about the lives and works of America's most intriguing and productive citizens, he teaches AP English at the award-winning Wade Hampton High School in Greenville, South Carolina.

"First Lady of Food"

Julia Child portrayed by Karan Vuranch

In the 1960s, Julia Child brought her love of French cooking to the American public. She became an icon of gourmet cooking and, using her remarkable energy and humor, changed the way Americans thought about food, convincing a nation that anyone could create gourmet meals.

Child was truly an innovative person as she shared own enthusiasm for food and, in turn, created a national obsession with cooking.

Actress Karan Vuranch recreates other historical figures, such as author Pearl Buck, labor organizer Mother Jones, humanitarian Clara Barton, Grace O’Malley, 16th-century Irish pirate and Wild West outlaw Belle Starr, Laura Ingalls Wilder and American literary giant Edith Wharton.

Vuranch’s advice for young people is the same as Child’s: “Find something that you love. It’s a shame to be caught up in something that does not make you tremble for joy.”

"Man and the mouse"

Walt Disney portrayed by David Skipper

Walt Disney was an optimistic, hardworking go-getter with an astounding capacity for concentration.

Disney fell in love with the early 20th century's high technology: animated motion pictures, which were drawn by hand. He started over again every time he failed artistically and financially. And fail he did. His is one of the most unlikely success stories ever told.

Chautauqua actor and scholar, David Skipper brings to life the legendary Disney as a result of decades of research and study into his life.

Skipper has been a Chautauqua performer for over 40 years, performing at festivals, libraries, book fairs and community colleges throughout the country.

“I enjoy the spontaneity of bringing these literary and historical characters to life and interacting with the audience as the individual I am portraying would,” said Skipper.

For a complete schedule, visit or