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Traditions help make city special

Published: Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013 5:23 p.m. CDT

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Crystal Lake has always been known for its namesake body of water.

But there are several other events that have become well-known traditions since Crystal Lake was incorporated as a city in 1914.

Cardboard Cup Regatta

Every summer, people venture to Crystal Lake’s Main Beach inside cardboard vessels hoping to paddle their way to victory. The Cardboard Cup Regatta has taken place for 29 years, and involves building boats out of cardboard and racing them at the beach.

The Regatta was started by the Crystal Lake Yacht Club to bring the community together for summer fun. It now raises money for charities such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Home of the Sparrow and the Interfaith Food Pantry.

Boats range from those that move swiftly through the water to larger vessels that garner attention for their details. Past entries have included a “Star Wars” Death Star, a boat replicating the lunar landing, the Batmobile and a 700-pound castle with a dragon.

The 2013 regatta featured more than 50 boats and attracted 1,500 to 2,000 spectators, said Nick Kachiroubas, chairman of the America’s Carboard Cup Regatta Foundation.

“Crystal Lake has a great support system for nonprofits and people want to get involved and continue to want to get involved today and keep it going,” Kachiroubas said.

Gold coins

A national tradition that has its roots in Crystal Lake is the anonymous donation of a gold coin in Salvation Army red kettles during the holiday season.

The first anonymously donated gold coin was dropped into a red kettle in Crystal Lake in 1982. It has since become an annual tradition and spread across the country.

Sometimes the coins are wrapped in dollar bills, so when they’re discovered it’s like a surprise on Christmas morning. The coins are sold based on weight, and the proceeds added to the annual Red Kettle Campaign.

“There’s a tremendous amount of excitement when counting the kettles and a gold coin is found,” said Linda Hunter-West, community relations and development spokeswoman for The Salvation Army McHenry County.

Chili Open

The annual Crystal Lake Chili Open golf outing has been scheduled for 42 years.

The golf outing started when a group of friends who loved to golf gathered at the former Haznow’s Restaurant and said “why not play golf on the lake?” said Jack Sebesta, the superintendent of Facility Services for the park district.

The tradition continues as the park district drills holes in the ice, plants old Christmas trees, and moves snow around to set up a nine-hole golf course on the lake.

Ice on Crystal Lake has to be at least 10 inches thick for it to be safe to set up and play the annual open. It’s been canceled the last two years because weather conditions did not lead to thick enough ice.

The park district hopes to follow tradition and keep the golf outing at Main Beach, rather than holding it at a traditional golf course, said Connie Cooke, a recreation supervisor and special events coordinator for the Crystal Lake Park District.

“There’s something about being out there, in the middle of the lake, swinging a golf club with friends and buddies,” Sebesta said.

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