Guest Blogger: Allison Moon
The Pennsylvania Chautauqua in Mount Gretna has been in continuous operation since 1892.
Kathy Snavely, Pennsylvania Chautauqua’s chair of summer programs and secretary of the board, has been a property owner in Mt. Gretna since 1986 and is a year-round resident.
The lushly wooded region features a small body of water, Lake Conewago, and is at the intersection of four municipalities and three school districts.
Mt. Gretna also houses other unique historical organizations, such as a camp meeting association (also in operation since 1892) and a former military encampment.
In fact, Snavely’s husband was first introduced to the Mt. Gretna area when visiting his father at the military encampment while training for World War I.
For the past 17 years, Snavely has created and distributed a weekly newspaper, This Week in Mt. Gretna, similar to the Lakesider newspaper’s This Week in Lakeside section.
Near the beginning of her board membership in 2005, Snavely attended her first Chautauqua Network meeting and met Kevin Sibbring, President and CEO of Lakeside Chautauqua.
With support from members of the Chautauqua Network, Snavely and other Pennsylvania Chautauqua board members have significantly enhanced religious and education programming to fully embody the Chautauqua mission.
The Pennsylvania Chautauqua now has 125 diverse programs between Memorial Day and Labor Day, including book reviews, arts and craft lessons, Sunday worship services, lectures, one of the top 25 art shows east of the Mississippi, a supervised playground program and recreational opportunities.
The Pennsylvania Chautauqua is overwhelmingly volunteer-based, with only one paid summer intern and 15 board members, despite the countless opportunities in all four Chautauqua pillars.
The Mt. Gretna Outdoor Art Show also takes place on the historic Pennsylvania Chautauqua grounds, which can draw a crowd from 9,000 to 15,000 in two days.
There are also 18 different groups that host programs on the Pennsylvania Chautauqua grounds, which includes five Chautauqua-owned buildings.
The Mt. Gretna playhouse, built 1995 after the 1894 original fell under the weight of a heavy snow, serves as a performance hall similar to Hoover Auditorium. (The original’s identical twin, The Tabernacle, rests in the Mt. Gretna Camp meeting and serves as both their worship place and an outdoor event venue.)
In addition, the Hall of Philosophy, built in 1910, is used for educational lectures and craft classes similar to Chautauqua Hall and Orchestra Hall at Lakeside Chautauqua.
The Hall of Philosophy has been featured on the Mt. Gretna Tour of Homes, a popular event featuring Mt. Gretna homes and historical buildings, attracting between 4,000 and 9,000 locals and visitors; this event benefits Gretna Music.
Another unique and favorite Pennsylvania Chautauqua event is the Fairy Tale Morning.
The morning includes a children’s ice cream buffet, a fairy-themed story time and a Fairy Garden Parade from the Hall of Philosophy to the Pennsylvania Chautauqua’s own fairy garden (with dancing fairies to greet the children).
However, Snavely’s most cherished memory is holding the Chautauqua Network Annual Meeting at the Pennsylvania Chautauqua in the summer of 2013 after seven years of planning.
“I feel like I’m with my family when the Chautauqua Network meets,” said Snavely. “We all embrace the same values, helping each other improve and expand based on those values.”
Snavely has also served as the Chautauqua Trail board secretary since 2010.
Visit www.chautauquatrail.com to learn more about the Pennsylvania Chautauqua in Mt. Gretna, and to explore the other communities along the Chautauqua Trail.