CRYSTAL LAKE – “I feel like a snowman right now!” said 8-year-old Natalie Dushane as she waddled towards the Dole Mansion on Saturday afternoon. Her multiple layers of insulation were firmly in place to guard against the crisp, cold weather that bit at her nose.
The chilly conditions Saturday afternoon were appropriate for the Crystal Lake Centennial Winter Festival.
“It was only 7 degrees when we left the house this morning, so this is better,” said Natalie’s mother, Carolyn. “We’re looking forward to some snowboarding, ice sculpting and hot cocoa.”
The festival, put on by the Lakeside Legacy Foundation, the city of Crystal Lake and the Crystal Lake Park District, was the winter installment of the city’s 100-year celebration.
“We’re celebrating the city’s centennial and bringing people out to enjoy the events,” said Kim Buscemi, park district superintendent of recreation.
Buscemi was stationed at the entrance of Main Beach handing out event schedules and candy canes, helped by volunteers from the Yellowjackets Youth Ice Hockey League.
Festival-goers traveled between Main Beach and the Dole to participate in the extensive list of events including ice sculpting demonstrations, snowboard attractions, a sale on used ski and skate equipment and the chance to pet and feed real reindeer.
One could stop to make a s’more at the bonfire stations while perusing the display of ice sculptures – including a bean bag set, mini golf stations and candy cane amount guessing station all made from frozen H2O.
A craft fair was held inside the Dole Mansion offering hand-crafted gifts for sale. For those that wanted to leave with their very own hand-crafted gifts, stations were set up allowing attendees to make their own cookies, stockings, Christmas cards and even their own music videos.
Buscemi said her favorite attraction was the iceless skating rink in the Main Beach building.
“We couldn’t count on the lake to be frozen this early in December so we came up with a fun alternative,” Buscemi said.
Children glided along the wax-like floor set up in the main building on real ice skates, with not a speck of ice in sight.
Jennifer and Eric Moen of Crystal Lake watched their son, Grant, circle the rink slipping and sliding with the rest of the kids. His younger brother, Bryce, encouraged him from the sideline.
“It’s nice to have something fun to do in the winter,” Jennifer Moen said. “We’ve been seeing signs all over for the festival and we really enjoy the other festivals that Crystal Lake puts on, so we thought it would be a great way to spend the afternoon. It’s better than staying indoors all winter.”
“We’ll definitely come back in 100 years for the next centennial festival," Eric Moen said jokingly.
The festival concluded in the late afternoon with a tree-lighting ceremony and Christmas caroling – and no winter festival would be complete without an appearance by Santa, who took pictures with attendees by the fireplace at the Dole Mansion.