Ballet performances make up just one of many arts activities happening during Christmas at the Dole, in Crystal Lake.

Arts on Display During Christmas at the Dole

Christmas at the Dole promises to be a dazzling display of the arts. Learn how Lakeside Arts Park is bringing extra cheer to the Dole this holiday season.

Ballet performances make up just one of many arts activities happening during Christmas at the Dole, in Crystal Lake.

Fifteen years ago, Lakeside Legacy Foundation was little more than a vision of what could be. Created out of an effort to save Crystal Lake’s historic Dole Mansion and its surrounding property, this nonprofit organization and its leadership faced an enormous question as they started out: What do we do with this place?

Lakeside’s artistic mission assembled rather organically, says Siobhan Cottone, executive director of Lakeside Legacy Foundation, which owns and operates Lakeside Arts Park at the Dole.

“I’ve been told a couple of the organization’s founders stood out on the front lawn and said, ‘Now we own the property, but what’s our plan?’” she explains. “And then an artist walked up to them and said, ‘Would you be interested in renting me some space to create an art studio?’ And it all began.”

Fast-forward 15 years, and there’s no doubt as to the vision and mission that drives Lakeside Arts Park at the Dole. Its status has been sealed as an inspiring community destination that uses art, education and celebration to positively impact lives.

Visit on any given day, and you’ll experience a unique setting infused with visual, performing and culinary arts in many forms. Colorful works adorn the walls of two galleries. The sweet scents of paints stream from art studios. Lovely melodies bellow from “the Listening Room” and studios as musicians practice their craft. Youth chop, sauté and bake all sorts of delectable treats in the professional kitchen.

“We hold culinary classes for children and work collaboratively in partnership with other nonprofits to support culinary programs for families that may not be able to afford it otherwise,” says Cottone. “We’ve partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County, local Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and even 4H.”

Local nonprofits and businesses use the Arts Park’s studios, galleries, board room, kitchen, and other facilities for their own purposes and fundraising events. Creative Arts Inc. and McHenry County Youth Orchestra both rent studio and classroom space.

Throughout the year, families and friends gather at Lakeside Arts Park at the Dole to celebrate First Friday Art Shows, concerts in “the Listening Room,” recitals, festivals and special events. One of the most anticipated of these events is Christmas at the Dole, a special event welcoming the holiday season.

Scheduled for Dec. 1-2 this year, Christmas at the Dole promises not only a dazzling display of the arts, but a special tribute to the organization’s 15th anniversary.

The entire family is invited to this year’s December First Friday at the Dole on Dec. 1, complete with artwork displays in two galleries, dance performances of “The Nutcracker” by The Berkshire Ballet Theater, madrigals singers and much more.

“The madrigals will be performing inside and outside, as we gather around the big pine tree to sing,” says Cottone. “The mayor of Crystal Lake and the president of Lakewood will help us to kick off the holiday season by lighting our Christmas trees.”

Cottone predicts Santa Claus will make an appearance, too.

“The evening is really focused on families and bringing people together to enjoy the holiday spirit, beautiful artwork and our performing artists,” she adds. “Almost three weeks prior to this event, volunteers will help us to decorate the mansion and galleries with Christmas trees and garlands. They’ll really transform this place into a winter wonderland.”

In years past, December’s First Friday was followed by a Winterfest on Saturday. But this year, those events will be held on Friday so that that a special gala can be held on Saturday evening.

“Our guests will be welcomed at the main entrance to the Dole Mansion, and we will have valets parking their cars,” says Cottone. “Guests will be welcomed and greeted on a red carpet that leads up to the mansion.”

Inside, guests will be greeted by actors portraying the family of Charles Dole, the home’s namesake and original owner. “Mr. and Mrs. Dole” will be joined by a grandmother and children, all in character, as they share more about the family’s and the estate’s colorful history.

Guests can enjoy cocktails and passed appetizers on the first floor of the mansion, which will be decorated in Christmas spirit and completed with a special Founders Hall to recognize those whose efforts saved the property 15 years ago.

During cocktail hour, a special silent auction will feature original art pieces and photography packages donated by Lakeside Arts Park’s artist partners and exhibitors.

A plated dinner will follow in the grand Sage Gallery, and it’ll put guests up close with the artistic component of the arts park’s mission. The evening’s entertainment includes live musical and vocal performances as well as an artist creating original work set to music. The dinner portion of the evening will include remarks and community testimonials about the Lakeside Legacy Foundation’s anniversary.

“We will be making special announcements and recognizing our organization’s founders and stakeholders,” says Cottone. “We want to thank them for their vision and strong support over the years.”

Following dinner, guests are invited downstairs to dance with big-band performers in “the Listening Room,” an intimate performance venue celebrating its fifth anniversary this year.

“I anticipate people will be saying, ‘I heard about Christmas at the Dole Gala and hope to attend next year,’” says Cottone. “Our hope is that it’ll grow to be a strong fundraising event for Lakeside in the future.”

Today, Lakeside Legacy Foundation’s mission and vision preserve and protect the historic Dole Mansion and Lakeside Arts Park for community use through innovative art education and community enrichment programs and events.

Lakeside Arts Park is funded entirely through private donations – no federal, state or county funding – so the generosity of donors and sponsors is always appreciated, as their contributions support improvements to the mansion and property as well as year-round programming, says Cottone. Christmas at the Dole First Friday and Gala is just one way to support the mission.

“We’re grateful for the support of our Christmas at the Dole supporters and sponsors, including the LeCoque Family Foundation, Home State Bank, AptarGroup Inc., Exemplar Financial Network, 1776 Restaurant, Countryside Flower Shop, Nursery & Garden Center among many others,” says Cottone. “We ask that all in attendance participate in our Spot Donation Auction to raise at least $15,000, representing our 15 years. This will help to continue the success of our foundation and our programs, to support future events, to help sustain this wonderful organization and maintain this property.”

Admission to First Friday is free, though a $5 donation is suggested. Tickets for the Christmas at the Dole Gala, on Dec. 2, are $150 per ticket, or patrons can buy a table of 10 seats for $1,500. Purchase tickets and tables by calling (815) 455-8000 or visiting

“We’re always looking for supporters who want to help us preserve and protect this property and the mansion,” says Cottone. “But we’re also looking for supporters who truly believe in the arts and the power art has on one’s life and outlook on life.”