Where imagination is not only encouraged, it thrives

sunrise, Lakeside OH
Lakeside sunrise. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

Children see the world so much differently than adults. That can be a positive thing.

In my mind, there is no better place to experience that than Lakeside, Ohio. It’s one reason my wife and I return for our annual vacation respite year after year.

The inquisitive nature and creative imagination of children were on display the minute we arrived at this Chautauqua on Lake Erie. A recent wild rain and windstorm had taken down some trees where we stay. Truncated remnants of one of the smaller trees still looked freshly cut.

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Natural smiley face. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
As my wife and I pulled our suitcases into our cozy efficiency apartment, a clutch of preschoolers played around those woody remains. One of the kids, not four years old, said, “Look, a smiley face!”

The child was right. Smack in the middle of the light wood rings darker imperfections perfectly mirrored the ubiquitous smiling icon. Anyone other than a child would have walked right by the gnarly stub without noticing the fascinating find.

It took a child. Spontaneous or planned, many inspirational opportunities await all ages at Lakeside. It’s the jewel in the crown that swells the summer resort town to 6,000 from the 300 year-round residents.

Inquisitive by nature, youngsters from toddlers to teens tend to view the world from an entirely different perspective than do the older generations of their parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Given all of their learnedness and life experience, adults can too easily dismiss the findings and discoveries of their progeny.

At Lakeside, a stiff lake breeze blows away that theory. Imagination and Lakeside are inseparable.

During the summer months, Lakeside becomes a gated community. It’s as if when the gates close, minds open. In part, that’s by design.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Lakeside’s four pillars of purpose highlight religion, education, recreation, and arts and entertainment. Imagination is the header that secures those fundamental principles together.

The Lakeside staff and volunteers go all out to encourage participants of every generation to create, recreate, reflect and uplift. Activities befitting the quartet of categories run from sunrise to beyond sunset.

People choose how to engage their imagination. The options are limitless at Lakeside.

A young, energetic girl wearing a florescent yellow fairy skirt barked out orders to her small troop of followers as she cycled ahead. Their animated play and laughter took them past quaint cottages. In their world, they may have been exploring the Grand Canyon.

The lakeshore drew others to sunbathe, walk, read and dream as sailboats big and small tacked their courses. A roaring cigarette boat occasionally disturbed the peace. At the shuffleboard courts, still others tested their strategy skills and dreamed of winning the tournament championship.

Schools of families camped on the dock plied for whatever nibbled. Fish or no fish, their time together exceeded any catch imaginable.

Youth groups sang, studied and tested each other’s faith with blind trust games. It didn’t take much imagination to see that letting go and learning to lead truly went hand-in-hand.

Artists applied paint to brush to canvas to the delight of admirers. They dabbed their creativity into familiar scenes with stunning results.

Imagine yourself lying in a hammock strung between a pair of giant shade trees as Baltimore Orioles warble and Common Nighthawks dart overhead. That is the reality at Lakeside.

Seeing a smiley face in the middle of a stump perfectly sums up the Lakeside life. Imagination thrives there. It’s why we keep going back.

sunset, Lakeside OH
Sunset on the dock. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Rippling sunset

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Rippling sunset. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Whenever I visit Lakeside, OH, rightly dubbed the Chautauqua on Lake Erie, I head to the dock if there is at all a chance of a decent sunset. Recently, this sparkling scene greeted me. Though I couldn’t coax a boat to sail into view, the shimmering oranges that glistened off of the rippling water caught my eye.

“Rippling sunset” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Miles apart, two locales share many marvelous traits

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Fernandina Beach harbor at sunset. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Amelia Island, Florida and Lakeside, Ohio might be nearly a thousand miles apart, but they have a lot in common. People would be at the top of the list.

First, though, I am grateful that I can visit each destination. Second, I’m glad my wife also loves both Amelia and Lakeside, and, well, me, too.

Personal disclaimers aside, each destination features special attractions unique to its setting. And yet, though one location is in the Sunshine State and the other in the Buckeye State, they are not that dissimilar.

Sure the vegetation and critters vary significantly, but are intriguing nevertheless. They are much more alike than you might imagine.

My wife and I discovered Amelia Island almost by accident. On our way to Sarasota, the hot spot for greater Holmes County snowbirds, we made an overnight stop on Amelia. It was love at first sight.

We stayed nearly on the inviting sands of the 13-mile long Main Beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Between the motel and the sand a family owned restaurant served delicious, fresh, locally caught seafood.

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On the trip home, we further explored Amelia Island, discovering its historic town of Fernandina Beach, founded in 1562. Its quaint shops and showy old homes sit on the Intercostal Waterway. You can’t beat sunrises on the Atlantic, and sunsets on the harbor. Need I say more?

That was four years ago. Yes, we’re heading back this winter, too.

Conversely, I knew Lakeside since I was a kid, and that’s a long time. Our parents took the family there a few times when I was young. Needing a getaway, I introduced my own family to the Chautauqua on Lake Erie 27 years ago. We haven’t missed a year since.

The lake lures you to its enticing shore where giant oak, ash, maples and cottonwoods shelter parks and steamboat-style cottages. Visitors gather on the concrete dock for luscious looks of dawn and dusk.

Since it’s a gated community in the summer, kids can run free without the normal parental fears of life beyond the gates. Lakeside is not just family friendly. It is family based, founded as a Methodist church camp in 1873.

All that said the people of both Amelia Island and Lakeside are the mortar that cements the palms, the ocean and the exotic wildlife just as they do the lake, the shuffleboard courts and the ice cream shops. Amelia Island and Lakeside both have character and characters. It’s the latter that really makes you feel at home.

Amelia Island hosts a nice mix of natives, retirees and sun seekers, permanent and temporary alike. Residents are courteous to tourists who ask too many questions, or drive like they’re lost. They might be.

Want to meet a cross section of the populous? Attend the weekly farmer’s market Saturday morning held on a section of closed street in Fernandina Beach. Or attend the farmer’s market on Tuesday and Friday mornings held on a section of closed street at Lakeside. Different states, same tasty results.

At the Fernandina Beach marina, a dockworker awaiting a yacht to refuel spins stories aplenty. You’ll learn a lot.

At Lakeside, if you admire someone’s cottage, their flower garden, or wonder what game they are playing on the front porch, just ask. They’ll be glad to share.

Destination locations like Amelia Island and Lakeside have lots of attractive charm. It’s their genuine hospitality that keeps people coming back, including us.

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Fountain at Hotel Lakeside. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

Generation Next embraces a family vacation tradition

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The Lakeside pavilion, framed by holly hocks. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My parents took my brothers and sisters there. My wife and I took our daughter and son there. And now, our daughter and her husband have taken their three children there, too.

“There” is Lakeside, Ohio. Nurturing body, mind and spirit, it’s an ideal family vacation destination. Activities abound for youngsters through oldsters, all under the umbrella of the Chautauqua community’s four pillars, religion, recreation, arts and entertainment, and education.

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The fountain in front of historic Hotel Lakeside. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
Of course, my wife and I were excited to have our daughter and her family, and her husband’s mother, too, join us for our annual Lakeside retreat. The last few years we had accompanied them to their beach vacations. I hoped the grandkids, ages 10, eight and four, would take to Lakeside the way they took to pounding waves on ocean beaches.

Located on the south shore of Lake Erie on the Marblehead Peninsula, there is plenty of water, just not much sand at the little Lakeside swimming area. There would be no challenging the waves this year, or so I thought.

Another concern was that Lakeside thrives on traditions of the past, when times and communication were both slower and life seemed simpler. I wondered if the kids would miss their high-tech toys in the quaint town, founded in 1873 as a Methodist Church camp.

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Even at their ages, our grandkids are no different than any others. They can run iPhones, iPads and iPods, and I can’t. I hoped they would embrace Lakeside’s wide variety of low-tech opportunities.

Boy did they ever, partly because some of the educational and recreational activities involved technology. Kids and their parents, or in come cases grandparents, built Lego robots. Faces flashed accomplishment when their robots responded to command.

The four-year old painted a beach bucket in an art class. She also easily made friends playing in the sand with little girls she had never met.

(Click on the photos to enlarge them.)

While adults attended classes and lectures, the boys each had more fun building toy boats. When completed, they held their maiden voyage in the children’s pool.

Under the abundant shade of the giant hardwoods, the kids wore out the miniature golf course. It was in the same grove of trees where I had picnicked with my family decades ago.

Our grandkids discovered a Lakeside treat. They downed fresh donuts, made daily at an iconic seasonal restaurant. However, what

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Flowers and rock sculptures brighten the shoreline in Lakeside. © Bruce Stambaugh
really got our daughter’s family’s attention were the shuffleboard courts. Too concerned with watching boats and birds, I had never paid much attention to the game even though national and international shuffleboard tournaments are held at Lakeside.

Thanks to my grandchildren, daughter and son-in-law, that changed. I learned more about shuffleboard in one morning than I had ever known before. They shuttled the disks down the well-maintained courts until it was time to head out. In other words, they had a blast.

No Lakeside vacation is complete without at least one round of dominoes. The grandkids learn to play that game, too. I have a feeling the dominoes will click the next time we gather.

I was wrong about the waves, too. When the northeast wind kicked up large whitecaps on the lake, the kids stood at dock’s edge hoping to get spritzed. At the famous Marblehead Lighthouse nearby, they successfully dashed from one rock ledge to the other, teasing the waves.

It was great to see our family’s next generation enjoy Lakeside so much and in so many ways. It truly was what Lakeside is all about.

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Dodging waves on the rocks at Marblehead Lighthouse. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

Red barn

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Red barn. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

I had just finished photographing some early evening scenes along the Lake Erie shore in Lakeside, Ohio, when I came upon this brilliant red barn right next to the Historic Lakeside Hotel. Its beauty stunned me. How the sun highlighted the barn’s red color and white trim also grabbed my attention. I loved how the green leaves of the tree limb intersected and nicely contrasted with the bright red. More than that, my wife and I have vacationed every summer at Lakeside Chautauqua since 1987, and I couldn’t recall ever seeing this barn.

I have thousands of photos from this beautiful gem of a town. The surprise of finding this barn, once seemingly hidden, but revealed by the combination of fresh paint and good timing made it my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

No rainy days at Lakeside, Ohio

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From sunrise to sunset, the area around Lakeside, Ohio’s dock is where the action is.

By Bruce Stambaugh

There’s never a rainy day at Lakeside, Ohio, making it the perfect summer vacation spot for all ages.

Sure, it rains at Lakeside. It’s in Ohio after all and on the shallow, sometimes precarious south shore of Lake Erie. That doesn’t mean the weather puts a damper on vacationing visitors, some who come from California and other foreign countries.

The weather, no matter how fierce, can’t quash Lakeside’s infectious community spirit. Sunshine or downpour, you can witness Lakesiders being Lakesiders wherever you go in the little resort town populated with quaint cottages and genial folks.

If it does rain, which it did on more than one occasion during our latest week in the Chautauqua on Lake Erie, no one dismays. Plenty of great activities await, with gaggles of polite people to encounter.

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Steamboat style cottages dot the streets of Lakeside, Ohio.

The new splash park is a cool hit with youngsters on a hot summer’s day. If the weather denies them that chance, you can likely find them sitting on one of the many inviting front porches that distinguish Lakeside cottages and homes.

A wise, gray-haired grandma centers a wicker loveseat, arms embracing grandchildren. They read aloud, do word games, Sudoku, or tell family stories, true and otherwise.

If three generations can’t enjoy a rousing round of miniature golf under the canopy of old-age hardwoods, the family won’t grow bored. They might turn to board games, Scrabble, chess, checkers, or Monopoly.

Thanks to its Chautauqua pillars of religion, education, arts and entertainment, and recreation, Lakeside is known for many engaging activities. Since 1928, shuffleboard has topped the sporting list historically.

Tennis, too, has its fair play at Lakeside. Families, couples, teams, and playing partners ply clay and paved courts for fun and competition.

Should it storm, chairs soon form a tight ring around antique dining room tables, cards are shuffled, and the competitive spirits are expended differently. Instead of power drinks to keep them going, homemade sweet tea and lemonade hit the spot.

Around the two-mile jogging trail that rings Lakeside’s boundary flows a steady stream of fitness. If the weather is too ugly to brave, brainpower replaces muscle power through summer reading or a spirited round of dominoes with family, friends and visitors.

The Lakeside dock is the centerpiece of the summer sun worshippers. Young swimmers, sailors, fishing generations and sun soakers congregate to do their things. In the event that the dock is closed due to inclement weather or northerly gales that swamp the cement pier with crashing waves, alternative plans are made with few complaints.

The handful of Lakeside’s eclectic restaurants and niche cafes, where scores of high school and college students earn a summer’s wage, offer plenty of fare and latitude to accommodate all. Patience whets the appetite for homemade donuts and refreshing ice cream.

Even on the sunniest of days, hundreds of folks hungry for other kinds of food are filled to capacity by the rich stories offered by the weekly chaplains. It’s as cerebral as it is churchy.

Weather-resistant, creatively designed indoor activities abound for children, while adults pick and choose between lectures, programs and displays. Nearly every week, some sort of special community function is offered.

Evenings bring out a large portion of the town’s population for a medley of performances in historic Hoover Auditorium. Others linger dockside basking in the glow of another inspiring sunset, sometimes only minutes after the end of an all-day rain.

Rain or shine, there really are no rainy days at Lakeside, Ohio.

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Watching the sunset from the dock is part of the Lakeside tradition.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

A much needed respite at Lakeside, Ohio

Perry Park by Bruce Stambaugh
Perry Park, located at the east gate of Lakeside, Ohio, is a beautiful place to rest, relax, read a book, jog, play tennis or just enjoy the peace and quiet.

By Bruce Stambaugh

After the week we had had, my wife and I needed a respite. The most logical place for that was Lakeside, Ohio, our favorite place to relax.

We had begun our annual weeklong stint at the Chautauqua on Lake Erie. Early the second morning we received a call to return home. Neva’s mother was gravely ill.

The call wasn’t unexpected. We quickly packed up and returned home. Neva joined her sister in watching over their elderly mother, Esther Miller. Esther died the next evening at age 90.
Hollyhocks by Bruce Stambaugh
Expected or not, a death is still a death. All of the grieving emotions overwhelm family members in different ways and at different times. Time seems to stand still. All the while, the necessary preparations need to be completed. They tend to take their toll on already frayed feelings.

My wife and her sister met with the funeral home director about the services. They met with the pastor to plan the funeral. Next day, they cleaned out their mother’s room at the retirement home.

The family arrived at the church well ahead of the visitation time to set up pictures and meaningful memorabilia, followed by the greeting of mourners and the funeral itself. Afterwards, we hosted the immediate family for an evening meal at our home.

As you can imagine, it was all very draining mentally and physically. We needed a break.

Neva and I held a one-sentence discussion. There could be no doubt that the best place to renew and recharge was to return to our beloved Lakeside. The next morning we were on our way.

Lakeside homes by Bruce Stambaugh

Despite the sweltering heat, it was good to be back at Lakeside with its lovely cottages, inviting dock, marvelous entertainment and multiple activity options.

With its shaded parks and marvelous vistas, Lakeside’s location on Lake Erie makes it idyllic. Really, though, Lakeside is more about people than anything else. From staff to strangers to long-time acquaintances, everyone is family at Lakeside.

A television reporter once did an expose on this special town. He wasn’t unfamiliar with the resort. He had vacationed there as a youngster.

The reporter knew how friendly Lakesiders could be. To prove his point, the reporter casually walked into a cottage without knocking and asked for lemonade. He wasn’t quizzed as to who he was or why he had barged in. Nor was he told to get out. No. Without a second thought, the homemaker poured him his icy drink.

Lakeside cottage by Bruce Stambaugh

On our recent extended weekend retreat, my wife and I had a similar experience. After finishing a very informative walking tour of Lakeside, one of the other participants invited us and another couple to tour her newly remodeled cottage. She didn’t even know us, and yet showed us every corner of her beautiful place. That’s just the way people are at Lakeside.

Lakeside flowers by Bruce StambaughAt the end of our visit of this lovely summer home, I realized that the kind lady didn’t even know our names. We made our introductions as we profusely thanked her.

What nicer place than Lakeside is there to sit back and forget your worries? You can read a book, play dominoes, go for a lovely morning walk, or just enjoy the view while eating a refreshing ice cream cone. If you’re at the right place at the right time, you just might get an unexpected tour, too.

That’s just how Lakeside and its gracious summer citizenry are. They invigorate you just when you need it the most.

The column appeared in the Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012