In just a few days, Madison will host one of the finest juried art shows in the region. The Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art attracts tens of thousands of visitors to our small city during the last full weekend of September. The anticipation is definitely building.
Like Christmas, anticipation is part of the fun. Also like Christmas, the event itself will be more fulfilling with a little planning.
You need a Chautauqua strategy!
The Parking Strategy – This is an easy one. If you arrive in the busiest part of the day, it’s tough to find a good parking space downtown. So the solution is to park at Madison Consolidated High School, 743 Clifty Drive, and take the $1 shuttle downtown. It operates continuously 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.
The Free Hands Strategy – You’ll want to try on clothing and jewelry, browse through racks of prints, feel the textures of everything. In order for Chautauqua to be a complete tactile experience, you’ll have to carry all your essentials in your pockets, a backpack or a shoulder bag. Make the bag big enough to tote your small purchases.
The See-It-All Strategy – Madison Chautauqua includes 250 juried exhibitors on several streets surrounding the Lanier Mansion. You’ll need a show map to make sure you don’t miss any. The Madison Courier and RoundAbout Madison both publish free Chautauqua guides that you can pick up (along with T-shirts and posters) at the event’s information booths. These booths are located at the two main festival entrances, on Broadway just south of First Street and on Vine Street just south of Main Street.
The Purchase Strategy – Some folks wait until Sunday afternoon to make their final selections. This can be risky, though. Popular booths can be picked clean by 5 p.m. Sunday. My strategy is simple: Buy it when you first fall in love with it. Then there’s no chance you’ll be disappointed later. I can honestly say I’ve never regretted a single Chautauqua purchase. If you’re worried about carrying it around with you, ask the exhibitor if they will hold your purchase for you until the end of the day.
The R&R Strategy – You’ll spend most of your day on foot, perusing the hundreds of exhibitor’s displays and marveling at their creativity. But to keep your own creative spirit alive, you need some planned rest stops. Be aware that if you keep walking downhill (toward the river) you’ll find Chautauqua’s extensive outdoor food court. There are picnic tables and benches facing the soothing riverfront. I also like to spend a good part of my day sitting in the shade while I enjoy the live entertainment on the Lanier Mansion grounds and the Visitor Center courtyard.
And don’t forget to make your way to the Broadway Fountain by 7 p.m.Saturday evening to rock along with Madison’s own Doctors Band. It’s the perfect way to end your strategically planned day of Chautauqua shopping!