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Chautauqua Board Made Right Decision About Programming

Chautauqua Institution made a difficult decision over the weekend.

The institution has provided a familiar rhythm to our summer season. Many area residents know summer is here when insitution residents begin arriving. A leisurely pace resumes here when the institution closes for the year. In between are renowned lectures, concerts and a summer of artistic availability typically not seen in our small county.

The institution has gone to great lengths to bring some highlights of its program outside the walls of Chautauqua Institution into Mayville and Jamestown with its Shakespeare in the Parks program. Area schoolchildren have benefitted from area schools’ partnerships with Chautauqua spearheaded by Deborah Sunya-Moore, the head of the institution’s artistic programming. One of the highlights of the year for Jamestown High School students and families is having the school’s graduation in the Chautauqua Institution Amphitheater.

It is with sadness, then, that we reported the institution’s decision to proceed with its 2020 season virtually.

Michael Hill, Chautauqua Institution president, and members of the institution’s board made the right call, as unfortunate as that decision is. There is simply no way to host the types of gatherings for which Chautauqua Institution is famous in a time of social distancing. The decision is a blow to the county’s economy, particularly to many of the summer businesses who count on Chautauqua Institution and its patrons to fill cash registers with enough sales from June through August to balance business’ books for the year.

Some of the institution’s programs will take place online this year. Hill said institution officials will do their best to make the institution’s gates a gateway to the Chautauqua County community. Like the rest of us, Chautauqua Institution officials and the smaller number of property owners who will make the trip to Chautauqua County this year — with the institution’s encouragement to isolate themselves for 14 days when they arrive — are trying to make the best of what is shaping up to be a bummer of a year.

County residents and the institution will muddle through this year as best we can, all while looking ahead to what we hope is a more normal 2021.

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