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On Educating LaRue: Chautauqua speakers to entertain, educate

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By Ron Benningfield

 Daniel Boone is coming to LaRue County Schools next week.

Actually, it’s Daniel Boone portrayer Scott New, but once he enters the classroom, Abraham Lincoln and Hodgenville elementary schools’ fifth-grade students will find it easy to become believers in time travel as he shares anecdotes in first person from the early days of Kentucky.

“These portrayers bring their character to life, and they are really serious about what they do,” said Mickey Miller, president and CEO of Nolin RECC which, with the Kentucky Humanities Council, is sponsoring the visits of New and others connected with the Chautauqua Series. 

Since its inception in 1992, Kentucky Chautauqua has brought to life nearly 70 people – both famous and unknown – from Kentucky's past. These performers travel throughout the state delivering to community organizations and schools their historically accurate dramatizations of Kentuckians who made a difference.

This year’s cast includes 28 presentations of people that range from baseball great Pee Wee Reese to country music’s Grandpa Jones.

“The presentations cover a time span from the 1700s to the present,” Miller said, noting that one presenter portrays the late actress and singer Rosemary Clooney, who died in 2002.

Ben Chandler, executive director of the Kentucky Humanities Council, contacted Miller about Nolin RECC funding 10 presentations to be divided among LaRue, Hardin and Elizabethown school districts.

“As he told me about it, I realized this brings history to life, especially for these school children, and could go a long way in their becoming interested in Kentucky’s history and people,” said Miller. “When we agreed to sponsor the presentations, Ben said the Council will match our effort, making a total of 20 presentations among the three school systems.”

Providing additional help to the area is nothing new for Nolin RECC.

“We’re part of the community, and that entails more than selling electricity,” said Miller, a LaRue County native and 1964 LaRue County High School graduate. 

Denise Skaggs, LaRue County Schools’ instructional supervisor who is coordinating the presentations in the county, said the district appreciates the sponsorship.

“It's great to see that a company like Nolin values arts education and wants to offer opportunities to our students that we normally wouldn't utilize due to limited funding.”

Skaggs also praised the Chautauqua performers for connecting history and drama in a way that she said is 10 times better than just using a textbook. 

Robert Bell of Louisville, portraying Reverend Newton Bush, performed for LaRue County Middle School’s eighth grade students April 9.

Bush (1845-1925), born in Anderson County as a slave, escaped from the farm on which he lived to be among the first black men to enlist in the United States Army during the Civil War.