Chautauqua Foundation Hosts ‘Promise Day’ Picnic At Institution

A Sunday in summer is always a good day for a picnic, especially when you’re celebrating the promise that tomorrow brings.

On Sunday, the Chautauqua Foundation at Chautauqua Institution hosted a picnic at Bestor Plaza called “Promise Day” to help raise awareness for the Promise Campaign-a $98.2 million initiative slated for capital improvements at the Institution, including rehabilitation for the more than 100-year old amphitheater.

So far, $67.4 million dollars has been raised.

Sitting in the grass along with families on blankets and banquet tables festooned with balloons, was a white, 12-foot long, three-dimensional string of letters. They spelled the word “promise” and picnickers were welcome to come and scribble their own promise to Chautauqua on the construction with markers.

“I promise to love and care for Chautauqua,” wrote one woman, while another read, “I promise to be happy.”

“The letters you see are an opportunity for people to express their own sense of what the promise of Chautauqua might be,” said Geof Follansbee, CEO of the Chautauqua Foundation. “Everyone can interpret that promise slightly differently – but that’s part of the fun of it.”

The Promise Campaign has adopted five capstone words for their initiative: sustainable, innovative, inclusive, engaged, and civil.

“The words capture the values we believe in,” said Follansbee, who added that they also highlight the goals of the Institution.

T-shirts with the capstone words were handed out to picnic volunteers along with guests who participated in the scavenger hunt. The winner of the hunt walked away with a new kayak, offered by the Foundation as a prize.

“It’s a community day here,” said Follansbee. “We’re hoping to make people more aware of what we’re trying to do with the campaign and we also want everyone to just have fun.”

While kids and parents enjoyed the afternoon in the plaza, the U.S. Army Field Band and Soldiers’ Chorus performed in the Amphitheater. In addition, the “Fresh Festival,” featuring locally-based growers, organic producers, and farm-to-table style vendors and educators, helped to jumpstart the week’s theme, “Feeding A Hungry Planet,” in partnership with the National Geographic Society and sponsored by Wegmans.

Blue Heron Growers and Abers Acres were two of several local food producers that participated in Sunday’s event, while Chautauqua’s Brick Walk Cafe created a special sandwich to coincide with the day’s festivities.

This coming week at the Institution will focus on the increasingly stressed global food shortage, which was a subject National Geographic made into a yearlong series in its magazine in 2014.

Dennis Dimick, National Geographic magazine’s executive environmental editor, will lead off the week with photographer Jim Richardson with a visual introduction to the state of the food supply. On Tuesday, Tracie McMillan, author of “The American Way of Eating,” and photographer Amy Toensing will illustrate Americans’ relationship with food.

Other events related to this week’s theme are scheduled from today until Saturday. The schedule of events can be found at