Lakeside Festival: “The Granddaddy of all Festivals in McHenry County”


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Nothing screams summertime in the Chicagoland area more loudly than outdoor festivals!  There are literally hundreds from which to choose; however, there is no need to drive hours or fight traffic into the city to experience the fun. You can have a great, family-friendly day right here in our very own McHenry County and even come home with a fantastic new blow-up bat or the stuffed lizard you’ve been dreaming of all winter…

One, in particular, is the 36th Annual Lakeside Festival—often dubbed the “Granddaddy of all Festivals”—which has been voted Best Festival in McHenry County for several years by the Northwest Herald Readers’ Choice Awards. Located on the grounds of the historic Dole Mansion, the event features cool carnival rides, delicious locally-crafted food, energetic bands (which provide a fantastic opportunity to show off your perfected worm to the other pre-school moms), an acclaimed parade, historic tours of the mansion with its gallery exhibits and a truly spectacular fireworks show over Crystal Lake. This is one party that many neighborhood locals never miss.

The festival kicks off on July 2nd at 4:00 p.m., with the theme of “Bad Looking Hawaiian Shirt Day.”  You know you have one, so pull it out and wear it with pride.  July 3rd and 4th are the “Family Days,” featuring storytelling, face painting, a balloon twister, a magic show, a stilt walker, a bike parade, a Baggo tournament and an ice cream eating contest. (You will recognize me as the first in line for this.)  See the full schedule online for times and details and don’t forget to wear your patriotic Red, White, and Blue these days.

July 5th’s Parade down Dole to the Lakeside Festival begins at 1:00 p.m., and it all ends with a bang with fireworks on the lake at dusk.  You can’t help but feel a sense of pride for your country as patriotic music rings through the air from the beach’s concert shell and the pyro display illuminates the entire lake.  You can also bring coolers with snacks to keep kids happy and drinks to raise a toast to our country as you watch. (Please note, there is a minimal charge for beach access during the show.)

lakeside festival crystal lake 2015
Photo provided by Shelby Younge

Several food and beverage vendors circle the stage areas at the “Taste by the Lake,” ranging from typical carnival fare to local pizza, taco, barbecue and Chinese plates. At reasonable prices, you can get a true taste of what Crystal Lake’s restaurants have to offer.  And of course beer and wine are available for purchase as well, so don’t forget your ID.  Please note that food vendors accept cash only.

Live entertainment is provided on two stages throughout the festival, featuring various bands—many local—that keep the energy pumping!  Don’t be surprised if the lawn turns into a dance floor and you run into some old friends during the later bands. There is a $5 gate charge for attendees 13 years and older, $2 for seniors 65+, and free to the military with valid ID and children 12 and under.

lakeside festival crystal lake 2015
Photo provided by Shelby Younge.

Of course, the carnival rides can entertain your kids for hours, so plan to go during the unlimited carnival ride times each day so you can get the most mileage for your moolah at $20 per bracelet.

  • July 2nd: 4:00pm – 8:00pm
  • July 3rd: 1:00pm – 5:00pm
  • July 4th: 12:00pm – 4:00pm
  • July 5th: 1:00pm – 5:00pm

Although running into friends and acquaintances is a large part of the charm, the festival doesn’t get outrageously overcrowded, and carnival lines tend to stay manageable for the most part. Clean bathrooms, a large seating area, and close parking accessibility keep this a doable, safe and fun experience with young children.  Check it out and help contribute to the Lakeside Legacy Foundation, which helps to support and cultivate the arts, the rich local history and the various community events in our area.  If you like small town USA festivals, this one will tug at your heartstrings!

36th Annual Lakeside Festival
July 2-5, 2015
$5 gate charge, free admission for kids under 12, $2 for seniors

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