By Bruce Stambaugh
As I walked along the lakeshore on my morning stroll, the clock tower chimed “All is well with my soul.” I smiled at the apt anthem.
Indeed, that’s just how I felt. After all, I was at my favorite vacation spot, Lakeside, Ohio, the Chautauqua on Lake Erie.
My wife and I have spent a mid-summer week here every year since 1987. The last three years our daughter’s family has joined us.
Why do we keep going back to the same place when there are so many other marvelous destinations in the world to explore? The answer is simple. We love Lakeside.
It’s a dreamy place, a step back in time, a sanctuary of sorts, a retreat to escape from the hustle, bustle, and negativity of the other world to this dreamland. I could dream this dream every day.
I’m not alone in that sentiment. The usually sleepy town of hundreds morphs into a gated resort for 10 weeks each summer. Weekly visitors number in the thousands.
Why? Lakeside is a beautiful place. It’s a safe place where people don’t lock their doors, where children run free, where strangers smile and say hello, where families like ours gather for a respite generation after generation, year after year.
A quick check of car license plates reveals Lakeside’s universal appeal. Lakeside’s tranquility, setting, familiarity, and planned nurturing draw folks from Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Virginia, and Ontario, Canada and places beyond.
What lures them? The Chautauqua community’s four pillars of purpose ensure a variety of stimulating activities for every age. Religion, education, arts and entertainment, and recreation soothe the soul of each participant.
That’s true even if you decide to sit on a bench and read a book or quilt. The dreamy world that is Lakeside envelops you.
Ferries shuttle vacationers and delivery trucks back and forth on the waters from Marblehead to Kelley’s Island. Freighters wait their turn to take on their payload at the limestone quarry dock.
Joggers and walkers and parents with baby strollers amble along the shore, the busyness of home and work overwhelmed by the vestiges of this remarkable space.
Immaculate lakefront homes and cottages line Plum, Poplar, Maple, Walnut, and 2nd and 3rd Streets, and all the other gridded streets. The variety of their architectural styles and colors inspire passersby and artists alike.
A stunning assortment of flowers and landscaping accentuates the historic homes and buildings. It’s like a different calendar photo on every block.
Folks gather in parks for sports, picnics, and introspection. Birds of all kinds cohabit with the humans among the tall trees and ornamental shrubs.
Children enjoy the kiddy pool and splash park while admiring grandparents smile and supervise from the parameters. Older siblings and parents play shuffleboard or listen to a noted lecturer. Kayakers and sailboats zip in and out of the little harbor near the dock, the magnet for all the Lakeside dreamers.
While teens and seniors sunbathe on the dock, three generations of fishermen angle for perch, smallmouth bass, and walleye. In reality, it’s sheep head, channel catfish, and white bass they reel in the most.
After the evening’s family entertainment at historic Hoover Auditorium, the little business district is abuzz with lovers of ice cream, caramel corn, and yummy pizza. All are satisfied.
In 1873, the founders of Lakeside dreamed of a place where people could gather to recreate, learn, create, and worship in a sacred setting. Because those dreams have come true in Lakeside Chautauqua, all is truly well for those who care to partake.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2016