It's the word itself - chau-tau-qua. The first time I heard it, I probably thought it sounded like an Indian word (Choctaw?) and I was all about Cowboys and Indians.
Then my teacher explained that Chautauqua's were similar to the tent shows I was familiar with except on a more enlightening plane. They could be entertaining but also educational. I wished that I had been born thirty years earlier or that they still had summer Chautauqua's.
The first time I actually remember stopping there and being inside the structure was when our school, along with two or three others, took a bus to Red Oak to tour the Thomas D. Murphy Calendar Company. After learning all about how the calendars were made and receiving a souvenir of our visit, we went to the park to eat our sack lunches.
By then, the mid 1950's, the place was run down; on the borderline of being unsafe. I remember some of us going up on the stage area and pretending to be performing and being warned to get down before we fell through.
I am still fascinated by the word Chautauqua just as I was as a child. There is something romantic about it with maybe a hint of magic.