Lakeside Arts Park at the Dole welcomes the Christmas season with a special gala on Dec. 1 and a holiday-themed First Friday event Dec. 7. Both include special performances and art displays.

Ring in the Season with Dole Mansion

Dole Mansion knows how to do it up for the holidays. Discover what exciting events await at this haven for the fine arts.

Lakeside Arts Park at the Dole welcomes the Christmas season with a special gala on Dec. 1 and a holiday-themed First Friday event Dec. 7. Both include special performances and art displays.

The Christmas season is a special time for the team at Lakeside Arts Park at the Dole, in Crystal Lake. At any time of year, this haven for McHenry County’s artistic talent is adorned in color and creativity. But this time of year, the historic Dole Mansion and its annex really come alive with all the brilliance of the holiday palette.

The 12-acre Lakeside Arts Park is home to numerous artist studios and galleries where children and adults alike can practice or develop their skills in visual, performing and culinary pursuits. The mansion and annex include two galleries, a professional kitchen and “the Listening Room,” a space specially designed for intimate performances.

Christmas begins well ahead of Thanksgiving, when a cadre of volunteers string garland and lights, set up numerous Christmas trees and adorn the exterior with brilliant lights and garlands.
And just as December dawns, it’s time for Lakeside Arts Park at the Dole to celebrate in style, starting with one of the largest fundraisers of the year.

The second annual Christmas at the Dole Gala, on Dec. 1, promises an evening filled with entertainment and elegance, as the property shows off its many assets.

“Our theme of the Roaring ’20s promises to be the bee’s knees,” says Siobhan Cottone, executive director of Lakeside Legacy Foundation, which oversees the property. “Guests can enjoy a ritzy pre-gala VIP event with a whiskey tasting experience in our speakeasy, presented by Rush Creek Distillery in Harvard.”

At the same time, guests can enjoy cocktails and appetizers in the elegant Dole Mansion, a property built in 1863 as a summer home for a wealthy Chicago grain merchant, Charles Dole. Live music, surprise performances, a silent auction and a spot auction follow, before the party moves to a delicious gourmet dinner in the Sage Gallery.

It’s an appropriate setting for a Roaring ’20s party, given that the mansion’s annex once was the swank dining room of Crystal Lake’s first country club, established in 1922. After the club folded during the Great Depression, the property hosted a boys school and a church before the Lakeside Legacy Foundation saved it from the wrecking ball.

This year’s Gala dinnertime party includes a special performance by David and Dania, a pair of “quick-change” artists who’ve performed on television’s “America’s Got Talent,” appeared before royalty and shared the stage with names including Katy Perry and Barry Manilow. Their rapid wardrobe changes on stage demonstrate a colorful series of illusions.

“We are definitely putting on the ritz for this event with this year’s spectacular, one-of-a-kind performance,” says Cottone. “We’re really excited to have them.”

Of course, no ’20s-themed gathering is complete without a little dancing, so an after-dinner party is being planned in “the Listening Room,” a performance venue located in the annex’s lower level. Returning to this year’s gala, a big band is prepared to set the mood for lots of swinging, foxtrotting and jitterbugging.

Tickets for the gala are $150 for an individual, $200 with the VIP “speakeasy,” or $1,350 for a table of 10.

“One hundred percent of proceeds from this year’s Christmas at the Dole Gala will go directly to Lakeside Legacy Foundation for us to help grow programs and to continue to preserve and protect the mansion and annex,” says Cottone. “It takes a lot of money to restore and preserve, and we need events like the gala to help raise awareness.”

Throughout the Gala, the arts will be on full display in two galleries – the Dole and Sage – all in anticipation of the following week’s First Friday event. As it does most months of the year, Lakeside Arts Park will present a special display of artwork created by local talent, this time with a focus on snowy themes, appropriately titled “Niveous art.” But this month’s festivities also draw together special performers and lots of holiday fun for the family.

The Dec. 7 event begins at 3 p.m. with special activities just for youngsters, who can decorate cookies, explore the Train Village, enjoy Christmastime stories, and take photos with Santa until 5 p.m. The fun continues afterward with a special Christmas tree lighting and performances by local madrigal singers and ballerinas.

“And to wrap up the evening, there will be a holiday jam in ‘the Listening Room,’” says Cottone. “Some of our artist residents and their students will be performing.”

Christmas at the Dole First Friday is free to attend, though a $5 donation is suggested. As with the gala, donations support the ongoing work at Lakeside Arts Park, which includes a variety of classes for adults and children in visual, performing and culinary arts. The nonprofit hosts 16 artist studios, periodic concerts and a special “Day at the Dole” event that invites groups and individuals to tour the property and learn about its history. The next one is scheduled for Dec. 5.

Financial support for Lakeside’s programming is appreciated throughout the year, and while events like the summertime Lakeside Festival, First Fridays, and the Run & Roll for the Dole Duathlon help, they’re only part of the picture. Patrons can also buy a brick with a brass plaque mounted in the main lobby or name a chair inside “the Listening Room.”

Volunteer support is needed in many ways, and not only during major events.

“We always need volunteer support to help us decorate for the holidays, teach children’s art or music classes, or help with First Fridays,” says Cottone. “You can be a greeter or you can help with refreshments. And if you’re a performer, we’d love to have you.”

As an incubator of artistic talent, Lakeside Arts Park stands apart in the region. It continues to attract a wide variety of people from around the northwest suburbs and beyond. The property has been a bridge to Crystal Lake’s past and a source of inspiration for its future. It’s a place where children can build their confidence and explore many interests, says Cottone.

“Everything around us in the world is art,” she says. “Look at a billboard or a mural on the wall. That’s art. You look at leaves laying on the ground, all different colors and patterns – that’s art. Art stirs emotion, art stirs up feelings; art can be healing. Art can be inspiring.”

About Lakeside Arts Park at the Dole

Comprised of the historic Dole Mansion and its annex, this arts destination specializes in opportunities that expose adults and children to the arts, in many forms.

Some of the 16 resident artists host workshops and evening instruction in art and music, while others invite children for periodic programs. Facilities are also available for special group programming, especially with seniors and Scouting troops, which occasionally hold class inside the culinary studio.

First Friday events, held on the first Friday from October through December and March through June, feature special displays and performances by local artists and Lakeside Arts Park’s resident artists.

“The Listening Room,” located downstairs, hosts performing artists for the public to enjoy throughout the year.

To learn more about upcoming events and programs including a calendar of First Friday events, visit