Chautauqua Pilgrimage

CHAUTAUQUA – For the last 11 years, Don and Linda Burgard have made the 333-mile journey to Chautauqua Institution.

It’s the atmosphere and education that keeps the Columbia, Md., residents coming back, they say.

Maybe it’s the ice cream, too.

“I love this place. I love Chautauqua Institution,” said Linda Burgard, who was enjoying some dessert on a muggy Sunday evening. “We come here every year.”

Added her husband, also enjoying a sweet treat, “It’s the setting. You come here and there’s all this music and the arts and performances. But the educational challenges are great, too.”

The Burgards stay within the enclosed community for two weeks, enough time they say to enjoy multiple performances and exhibits. “I wish every place was like this,” Linda Burgard said.

Meanwhile, traveling more than 1,200 miles a year to visit from Long View, Texas, are Richard and Linda Smith. Both make the annual trek solely for Chautauqua Institution.

“We have been coming here for the last eight years,” Linda Smith said. “We come up just for this. There isn’t anything like it; we just love all the programs.”

“We really don’t have this sort of thing in Texas, so it’s a lot of fun to come here,” Richard said.

According to George Murphy, vice president and chief marketing officer, many annual visitors of Chautauqua Institution stay beyond a few days. For first-time guests, though, a visitors center was added to the grounds.

Murphy said one-third of all visitors annually are new to Chautauqua Institution. “We found that many of these people have never visited before,” he said. “That’s what prompted us to put in this visitors center.”

“We did a survey of people who came here for the first time last year,” he continued. “We assumed that everyone who was coming knew everything. It was really humbling.”

Murphy said an email is sent to all new visitors two weeks before their scheduled arrival. The heads-up on where to go and what to expect is designed to help new guests adapt more quickly, he said.

Performing Sunday in the Amphitheater was the American Legion Band of the Tonawandas, Post 264. In the band was Marcia Panzarella, of Buffalo, who has been performing with the group since 1993.

“It’s a great place to come and play,” Panzarella said. “I enjoy when we get the chance to play here.”

The Chautauqua season continues for nine weeks. For more information, visit or call 357-6200.

A boy performs Sunday at Chautauqua Institution. See more photo at

P-J photos by Eric Tichy