The name Chautauqua comes from Lake Chautauqua, New York, where a summer school was originally held for Sunday-school teachers beginning in 1873. However, after the classes expanded from religious studies to include arts, sciences and the humanities, the Chautauqua name soon came to be known as a travelling road show intended to educate as well as entertain.
Chautauqua was extremely popular with the culture-starved prairie dwellers of Western Canada, with shows touring between 1917 and 1933. Heritage Park's first Chautauqua tent was erected in 1982, and was made of canvas stretched over a pegged frame. Unfortunately, the historically accurate construction of the tent made it unable to withstand a violent windstorm in 1984. The tent was destroyed and a new 6,100-square-foot version was constructed in 1985.