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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chautauqua & Coffee learning series

by Dixie Hoover, site manager at Confederate Reunion Grounds

The Chautauqua & Coffee learning series hosted by the Confederate Reunion Grounds coordinated its December event with the Mexia Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual “Mistletoe Music and Magic” last month to begin the holiday festivities in Limestone County.
Beneath the 1893 dance pavilion, the band Time Was performed holiday music using traditional 18th and 19th century instruments. David Turner played the banjo, with Cheryl Turner on the hammer and mountain dulcimer, and Brenda Jeter plucking the string bass. Other instruments included the mandolin, pennywhistle and a crazy assortment of percussion “toys.”

Percussionist Mike Jeter created quite an interest among spectators in his choice of instruments to “set the beat” using anything from a jaw bone to a banana seed pod.

At the conclusion of David Turner’s recitation of The Night Before Christmas, sleigh bells were handed out and everyone took a sleigh ride to the tune of “Jingle Bells.” Mike Jeter provided the crack of the whip and called to the horses as we sleighed to a 19th-century holiday house party.

We arrived at the house party to find refreshments provided by Coffee Cabaret of Mexia. My favorite was the roasted chestnut coffee; this flavor also proved to be the favorite of many others as it didn’t take long for the pot to be emptied.

For those who needed more warmth than hot chocolate, coffee, or hot tea could provide, a campfire outside the pavilion attracted groups and individuals throughout the afternoon’s performance.
The house party concluded the event with dance demonstrations and lessons for all who wanted to participate.
Even those who weren’t brave enough to line up for the Grand March or expend the energy needed as an aerobic workout to the Virginia Reel dance found enjoyment in simply watching.

The next event scheduled for the Chautauqua and Coffee learning series will be March 2010. Lynn Deal, site manager for Sam Bell Maxey House, will discuss the history of Southern quilts. Robin Gilliam, site manager for Eisenhower Birthplace, will follow up with a discussion about care and storage of heirloom quilts.

The Chautauqua and Coffee learning series is patterned after a movement spread through the rural U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that provided educational lectures and entertainment for the average American before the advent of mass media.
The Confederate Reunion Grounds is located 6 miles south of Mexia on State Highway 14, then 2.5 miles west on FM 2705 in the Texas Brazos Trail Region.

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