Lakeside Festival Returns to Crystal Lake

It’s time once again for the summer festival season, and in Crystal Lake there’s no bigger celebration of summertime than the annual Lakeside Festival, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

The festival, which runs July 4-7, is held on the grounds of Lakeside Arts Park, a 12-acre estate near the lake that’s best known for its Civil War-era Dole Mansion and its annex. Lakeside Festival is the largest fundraiser of the year for Lakeside Legacy Foundation, the group that oversees this property and maintains its diverse lineup of arts programming.

The Dole Mansion and its annex are equipped with various artist studios and galleries where both kids and adults can learn or hone their visual, performing and culinary art skills. The property has two galleries, a kitchen and ‘the Listening Room,’ a performance venue which hosts intimate concerts with touring artists.

“Not only is Lakeside Festival the perfect venue to kick off the summer, but it also gives Lakeside Arts Park at the Dole the opportunity to ‘show off’ its beautiful environment, a true jewel of the community,” says Patti Lutz, Lakeside Legacy Foundation Board President. “From the grounds to the Dole Mansion, to its galleries and artists studios, you’ll experience the magic that is Lakeside.”

Lakeside Festival typically draws nearly 50,000 people over the course of four days, and it’s not hard to see why. The weekend’s lineup includes numerous activities, including live music, a carnival provided by Windy City Carnival, and food served by local vendors.

This year’s live music slate is still being finalized, but past years have brought the likes of Modern Day Romeos, Hi Infidelity, and the McHenry County Youth Orchestra.

Kids will find plenty of additional fun aimed just at them, including face painting and mascots from local sports teams. Guests can also participate in a bean bag toss competition that awards winners with cash prizes.

The festival wraps up with the biggest events on Sunday, July 7. Starting at 1 p.m., the annual Fourth of July parade begins on Woodstock Street, near City Hall, and travels along Dole Avenue on its way to the festival grounds.

The weekend ends with a real bang as the city’s fireworks show, launched from Crystal Lake, illuminates the Dole Mansion.

For 40 years, the Lakeside Festival has served not only as Crystal Lake’s Fourth of July celebration but also as a prime occasion for locals and out-of-towners to gather together. It’s become a popular spot for high school and family reunions.

Tickets for Lakeside Festival are $5 daily at the gate and $2 for seniors 65 and older. Children 12 and under get in for free along with active military, with active ID. Get a four-day admission wristband and pay for a whole weekend of fun, with the added benefit of skipping the lines at the gate. A wristband will get you into Taste of the Lake, where you’ll find food vendors, a beer garden and the music stage.

Behind the scenes, a committee of volunteers and supporters plays a big role in organizing, setting up and operating this festival. Volunteers are a big part of keeping things running, and their help is always welcomed, Lutz adds. Anyone interested in helping with this year’s Lakeside Festival is encouraged to contact Lakeside Arts Park.

“It gives us great joy to see families and friends of all ages and backgrounds celebrating American independence while honoring and supporting our local history and the arts,” says Ron Russell, festival co-chair. “We are proud to host this annual community celebration.”

This year’s Lakeside Festival runs from noon-11 p.m each day. No coolers, drones, bicycles, skateboards or pets (except service dogs) are allowed on the grounds. ❚