Open-Air Fun at The Dole this Summer

Something fresh is arriving at The Dole, in Crystal Lake, and just in time for the earliest of summer’s harvest.

Starting June 6, The Dole hosts the Open Air Farmers Market+ every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Sept. 26. The market draws together local farmers, growers, artisans and food purveyors, in addition to artists and musicians.

The Dole is best known for its historic buildings, monthly art events, Lakeside Festival and live music. Studios inside provide a place for artists – visual, performing and healing artists – to work and feed off each other’s creative energy.

Now, that artistic flair is spreading across the lawn as the open-air farmers market brings food trucks and a cash bar, live musicians on a stage, and artists selling their works. Vendors can sign up at

“There were a lot of people who wanted to see something like this at The Dole, and there were generous donors who were able to make it happen,” says Linda Wozniak, Farmers Market+ manager.

Wozniak has lived down the street for nearly 30 years, and she believes the market is a natural fit for Sunday mornings. Set just off the shores of Crystal Lake, The Dole is a landmark for people who bike and walk the neighborhood. The city’s Main Beach is close by, and it’s a popular draw all summer.

“I can envision so many people coming here to shop the market and enjoy some music and food with family and friends,” Wozniak says.

A portion of the proceeds from Open Air Farmers Market+ will support the Service League of Crystal Lake, an organization that helps local families in need. Funds will also support programming and restoration of The Dole’s historic properties. The original mansion was built by a wealthy Chicago grain merchant in 1865, and it was part of a 1,000-acre farm. The Lakeside annex, built in the late 1920s, was the original Crystal Lake Country Club.

Music Under the Trees

Since the COVID pandemic hit last year, it’s been a time of experimentation for The Dole. For at least five months last year, the nonprofit organization was shuttered to the public and unable to host fundraisers or other public events.

So, leaders at The Dole decided to start a Ravinia-like music night that could draw people from all around the area.

Volunteers quickly strung up twinkle lights among the centuries-old oak trees outside. They set up a modest 10-foot stage for acoustic duets and spray-painted 70-some circles where groups up to six could sit together. From July through September, crowds gathered at sunset to enjoy live music, food and drinks.

“We sold out three of the four shows, and we were turning people away from the last couple of events,” says Ron Russell, past president and a current board member.

Music Under the Trees returns this summer with eight shows every other Wednesday evening from May 26 through Sept. 22. Just like last year, performers are mostly duets with an acoustic setup, and patrons can select a dinner from visiting caterers or food trucks. There’s a bar service, and the vintage Julie Ann’s Custard van will be on-site, too. Shows start around 6:30 p.m.

The season kicks off May 26 with Jim and Justin, from Modern Day Romeos. The pair play a wide range of cover songs, mixed in with some audience interaction. Additional performers are still being scheduled, including a special performance highlighting The Dole’s own resident musicians.

Right now, seating is limited to 150 people, though Russell says the number may expand, depending upon state mandates. Thanks to several event sponsors, all proceeds support The Dole’s efforts to preserve the historic mansion and annex.

Russell is confident shows will sell out, so he suggests buying tickets early. Advance tickets cost $20 and can be ordered at

More Fun Coming Soon

As summer wears on, keep an eye out for The Dole’s annual Lakeside Festival, an Independence Day tradition that was sidelined last year due to COVID-19. If all goes according to plan, the festival will bring at least some degree of carnival rides, food vendors and live music to the grounds.

“We continue to support the arts and other special events, and increasingly The Dole is going to be much more active in supporting the local community,” says Jay LeCoque, vice president of the Lakeside Legacy Foundation board that oversees the property. “The Dole has a rich history and heritage in Crystal Lake, and we want everyone in the community to appreciate what The Dole has to offer as a place for family and friends to gather in a safe place and a beautiful setting.” ❚

The Dole is located at 401 Country Club Road, Crystal Lake, (815) 307-4787.