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Local Chautauqua Circle celebrating 125 years

By Staff | May 12, 2008

Poet Meredith Cook holds a copy of her just published book.

If you get to be 125 years old, you should do a little celebrating.

That is exactly what the Mitchell Chautauqua Circle did last Tuesday in Blue Earth.

The Circle held their annual spring luncheon and expanded it to celebrate the 125th year of their existence. They were started in 1883 by Julia Mitchell, the wife of a new Presbyterian pastor in Blue Earth at the time.

The Circle was started as a way for women to study and read, and to get an education. They started out by meeting weekly, and in homes. Now they meet twice a month, first and third Tuesdays, at Trinity Lutheran Church.

On this past Tuesday the ladies donned old style hats and performed a skit that was a re-enactment of a typical meeting back in 1883. They even used the names of the original members of the Circle in the skit.

Circle member Elloyce Queensland explained that in the early days the members took roll call, and if the person was present they had to answer with a fact about Faribault County. Each of the ladies told something about the early history of the county as their way of saying “present.” The guest speaker at Tuesday’s luncheon was poet Meredith Cook of Blue Earth.

Cook has just recently had a book of her poetry published entitled “Word Flight.”

Although she has been writing poetry for many years, and has had poems published in magazines before, this is her first book.

It arrived in Blue Earth from the printers on Monday.

On Tuesday, Cook was reading selections from the book to the audience at the luncheon.

Cook is a 1974 graduate of Blue Earth High School, and an English and library sciences major in college at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa.

In 1982 she joined the League of Minnesota Poets and later became the editor of their magazine “The Moccasin,” a post she still holds.

Circle member Kay Tempel introduced Cook, who read many of her poems from her book. A CD of Cook reading several of her poems is included in the book as well.

The Mitchell Chautauqua Circle was instrumental in helping Cook get her book published.

Cook expressed appreciation to them and also to several others who had helped on the project.

The book cost around $3,000 to publish, Cook said, and the Circle donated $500 towards that cost.

Mitchell Chautauqua Circle President Wiletha Eckhardt was the emcee for the luncheon, and told the group a little about the beginnings of the Chautauqua movement, which started on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in New York.