Chautauqua uses comedy to give history lesson

Photo submitted
The 2017 cast from left: Eric Peltoniemi, Roland Trenary, Tim Bunting, Jen Merhar, Marissa Eastling, Dewey Roth, Shane Lord and Maddie Holtze.

Longtime cast member reflects on its run

In its 13th year, the Chautauqua variety show at Dakota City Heritage Village will be sure to delight its audience members at the Dakota County Fair, which starts Aug. 7 at the Dakota County Fairgrounds in Farmington.

Dewey Roth, who has been with the show since its premiere in 1999, loves being able to stretch his creativity and expand his education.

His acting career began when he was in third grade at a northeast Indiana school where he was cast as Prince Charming. He’s been involved in community theater ever since.

Shortly after Roth changed careers from being a youth pastor to a technical writer, Pete Martin reached out to him to be part of Giant Step Theatre. Roth ended up sticking around for 16 more years.

The two have worked together, along with Eric Peltoniemi, in creating original scenes and songs every year for the Dakota County Chautauqua. Roth estimates that 80 percent of the material is new each year.

For the most part, the variety show is comedic. This year’s theme — “It Takes All Kinds” — celebrates Minnesota’s diversity.

Roth jokes that the show is an “equal-opportunity offender; there’s religion in Minnesota, you know,” he says, “you can go to any Lutheran church you want.”

Roth continues to spread good cheer through comedic verbiage on his weekly blog Almost the Truth (

He’s not just a comedian, though. As a former youth pastor with a strong faith, Roth believes that “creativity is a part of a God’s image.” His other blog, “Truth Is,” celebrates the truths he finds in scripture and other spiritual readings.

He continues to come back year after year to the Chautauqua because he loves working with the cast members so much.

“If the people in the audience can get a taste of that enjoyment,” he exudes, “that’s great.”

On Sunday evening at 6 p.m. there will be an open dress rehearsal to the public.

Performances begin Monday, Aug. 7 at 7 p.m.

Performances will then continue daily at 7 p.m. through Wednesday, Aug. 9.

On Thursday, Aug. 10, performances will run at 2, 4 and 6 p.m., Friday 4 and 6 p.m., and Saturday 2, 4, and 6 p.m.  The Chautauqua’s last performance will be Sunday, Aug. 13 at 2 p.m.

All performances take place in the Big Tent behind the drug store at Dakota City Heritage Village.

More about the Heritage Village is at

Photo submitted
Dewey Roth in last year’s cast photo.
Photo submitted
Dakota Chautauqua has been known to feature singing pigs.
Photo submitted
Dewey Roth dressed up as Timothy Wilcoxson, a circuit-riding preacher who fought off a wolf with a Bible in hand in last year’s Chautauqua.

More about the fair is at