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Madison Monday

Madison Monday: Chautauqua and holidays Madison-style

By October 1, 2012No Comments


It’s Monday in Madison, and on cue the beautiful weather that held out all weekend is gone.  That’s just fine with me, because really, Monday’s should be kind of overcast with the potential for rain.  Otherwise, we’d all feel deeply resentful about the fact that we can’t just go on wandering around the streets of Madison, looking at art, listening to music, and eating festival food.

Another beautiful Chautauqua weekend is officially in the books with very little incident.  I’m sad to say that my Madison Rules were not always obeyed…I saw several folks crossing in the middle of the street rather than at the crosswalk, though they might be excused by the complete logjam of cars that was Main St. on Saturday afternoon.  We did almost get run over by a car trying to turn right and not yielding to pedestrians.  I also had to explain to my parents, who came up to visit, that though you can use the lawn chairs to save a parking space, you cannot just put lawn chairs anywhere willy-nilly.  It’s really only appropriate to place them directly in front of your house, particularly in the spot that you and all your neighbors generally recognize as “your spot.”  This would be the spot that if you come home and find someone who is not you parked there, you’re liable to say, “Who took my spot?”  And if your neighbor, due to the cascade effect caused by someone taking their spot, parks in your spot, they’re liable to say, “Sorry I had to take your spot.”  Next year I’ll have to be more clear.

The most creative parking-spot-saver I saw this weekend was a loan planter sitting along the curb on 3rd St., complete with a rather sad-looking geranium still inside.  This was late on Sunday afternoon, when most folks were leaving town, so I can’t attest to how effective this lone planter was at saving a parking spot.  I couldn’t help but see it as an act of parking space desperation.

Thinking about Madison compared to other small towns (real and imaginary), I’ve increasingly realized that though we certainly celebrate the big holidays–Christmas, Halloween, Easter–we’re lucky enough to have an additional set of holidays all our own.  I’m declaring Chautauqua one of them.  Also on the list would be folk festival (RiverRoots) in the spring.  And the upcoming Soup, Stew, Chili and Brew.  And of course, Regatta.  You know an event is approaching holiday status when you’re moved to greet people with a, “Happy Chautauqua!” which is exactly how I felt this weekend.

The beauty of having a unique set of holidays is that there’s much less of the generalized anxiety often associated with the holidays we share with the rest of the world.  If your family doesn’t live in Madison, they don’t really expect you to spend Chautauqua with them, so there’s none of the guilt and schedule conflicts that come along with Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Also, there’s fried cheese, which is sadly lacking from traditional, non-Madison holidays.

So, let me wish everyone a belated Happy Chautauqua, and an early Happy Soup, Stoup, Chili and Brew, coming up in just two weeks.

For many more great pictures and videos from this weekend’s Chautauqua, check out

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