The importance of railroads to America’s economy and way of life, and their impact in Delaware, will be explored during the 20th annual Chautauqua tent show, “All Aboard: Delaware and the Railroad.”

The tent show will take place from Sept. 13-15 at the Zwaanendael Museum and the Lewes History Museum in downtown Lewes.

Co-sponsored by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs and the Lewes Historical Society, the 2018 Chautauqua will be held under a large tent and will be headlined by reenactors from the American Historical Theatre who will take on the personas of celebrated historical figures, educating and entertaining audiences as they bring the past to life. Audience members are encouraged to ask questions and interact with the featured characters who will include a Harvey Girl, one of the thousands of young women who were recruited to work as waitresses in Paul Harvey’s chain of restaurants located along railroad lines in the American West during the late-19th to mid-20th century; Joshua Lionel Cowen, the founder of the Lionel Corporation which manufactured toy trains; and American author Mark Twain who will share his humorous thoughts on railroads.

Chautauqua takes its name from a series of adult education programs that were first held at a campsite on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in upstate New York during the late 19th century. Chautauquas spread throughout America in the late-19th and early-20th centuries bringing speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day to a wide cross-section of the nation’s rural and small-town population. Circuit Chautauquas — also known as Tent Chautauquas — were an itinerant manifestation of the movement. Programs would be presented in tents pitched in a field near town. After several days, the Chautauqua would fold its tents and move on to the next community. The popularity of Chautauquas peaked in the mid-1920s, after which radio, movies and automobiles brought about the gradual disappearance of the movement by the 1940s.

Reborn in the 1970s as a vehicle for humanities education, modern Chautauquas are organized around a core program in which re-enactors portray celebrated historical figures, speaking and interacting with audiences. Modern Chautauquas have been presented annually in Delaware since 1999 featuring a variety of historical figures including Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln; Amelia Earhart; Dolley Madison; Eleanor Roosevelt; Edgar Allan Poe; the Lone Ranger; John Philip Sousa; and Delaware’s own Pvt. James Elbert, Maj. Allen McLane, F.O.C. Darley and Clifford Brown.

Admission is free and open to the public.

For more, call 645-1148.