Free Land Chautauqua Hosted by Homestead National Monument & the Community of Beatrice
A dynamic week of events took shape surrounding the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act and the May 20-25 visit of the Nebraska Chautauqua, “Free Land? 1862 and the Shaping of Modern America,” presented by Humanities Nebraska in partnership with Homestead National Monument and the community of Beatrice.
May 20th featured discussions of the Homestead Act, the Morrill Act, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture which was concluded with the 150th Anniversary National Signature Event at the monument. “Free Land” Chautauquans, the Brass in Blue Air Force Heartland of America Band, and a laser light show were featured as well.
Chautauqua events were held each evening May 21-25 under the tent at Homestead National Monument. First-person interpretations of historical figures exploring the collective impact of legislation acts passed in 1862 were featured. Scholars included Patrick McGinnis as Grenville Dodge, Paxton Williams as George Washington Carver, Taylor Keen as Standing Bear, Karen Vuranch as Laura Ingalls Wilder, Betty Jean Steinshouer as Willa Cather, and Warren Brown as Mark Twain. Each presentation allowed audiences to hear a historical figure and to ask questions of that historical figure as well as the scholar who portrayed him/her.
Daytime workshops for adults as well as a youth Chautauqua Camp were held at the Beatrice Public Library, culminating with Young Chautauquans’ portrayals on May 25.
The Homestead Express was a pre-Chautauqua weekend May 19-20 in Lincoln. Participants picked up a game board at one of the partner locations, completed questions at each location during Chautauqua, and turned in their board at Homestead National Monument to receive a commemorative coin. Partners hosted a range of activities during the weekend. They included: Lincoln Children’s Museum, the Nebraska History Museum, Pioneers Park Nature Center, the Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln City Libraries, the Michael Forsberg Gallery, the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, and the Lang Building-Main Street Beatrice.
The “Free Land” Chautauqua is funded in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Nebraska Cultural Endowment, the State of Nebraska, and the Friends of Homestead, and many other contributors and volunteers.