Meet Bill and Mame Drackett, who have spent summers at Lakeside Chautauqua for all 37 years of their marriage.
That’s just the fourth generation, though. Bill’s family began coming in 1897.
The 1-mile-square private community on the Marblehead peninsula was founded in 1873 during a series of rousing camp meetings organized by the Methodist Church. In the 1890s, as part of the Chautauqua movement that began in New York programs were added in religion, education, cultural arts and recreation.
Now, Lakeside Chautauqua — which was just named one of the 10 best little beach towns on the Great Lakes — draws 150,000 visitors each year to the shores of Lake Erie.
The Drackett family built their first cottage in the early 1900s. Now the Drackett sons and grandchildren come, too.
“The little ones talk about Lakeside all the time and can’t wait to come back,” said Bill.
Mame was born in Sandusky and raised in nearby Milan. The couple met at Ashland University. They spend winters in Naples, Florida, and May through October at Lakeside.
“It’s definitely going back home for me,” says Mame, whose sister-in-law has a cottage two doors down. Her mother also spends the summer at Lakeside.
“It’s the sense of family and heritage and the unique aspects of Lakeside,” Bill said. “It’s not only the beauty of the lake. It’s not just a beach town. It’s all the events and activities and fun stuff that goes on there.”
Read on for their favorite Lakeside traditions.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Does it feel like a throwback to an earlier decade?
Bill: It’s that family oriented place. Everybody’s got a front porch, not a back yard. Everybody says hi to each other on the sidewalk. Everybody’s got a bicycle. The kids have a great deal of freedom. The gate is down so they can’t get very far.
Mame: If some little kid falls on a bike you’ve got six moms and a grandfather to pick them up. It’s such a great place.
Do you see the same people each summer?
Bill: You see a lot of the same faces; you have a lot of the same generational friends. You’re always meeting new people. When we’re working in the front or the flowers, people just stop by and chat.
Mame: They come to Lakeside and they remember certain spots. So many people come and rent for a week. They’re Lakesiders, who always come for example the third week in July. And they always stay in the same house. So you look forward to seeing them.
Bill: People plan their stay around the boat show or tennis tournament or shuffleboard or symphony.
What are your family traditions at Lakeside?
Bill: We have Mame’s family sailboat we go out on. We’ve spent every Fourth of July there since we were married. Our son had to miss the Fourth of July last year and he was really upset. It’s tradition. It’s just being together. We take the boats and go out to the islands.
Our kids always had a contest when they came up, who could see the lake first.
Mame: When the grandkids are there, you start the day with donuts and end the day with ice cream.
Lakeside has pages of activities, from art classes to concerts to sports. What do you like to do?
Bill: The kids and the adults too, there’s so much to do, and so much freedom especially for the kids to jump on their bikes and meet up with friends. With the adults it’s the same thing. If you don’t want to do anything, there’s sitting on the front porch. A lot of people say they can feel their blood pressure dropping as they come through the gate..
Mame: Last year Lakeside built the pool. The symphony comes. We always have a variety of entertainment. There are house tours. There is something every week.
What events are you involved in?
Mame: I run the lakeside wooden boat show. The area is known for Lymans. We do have one, a very rare 1948 Lyman sailboat, one of only four left in the world. My dad had Sandusky boats, wooden boats in the ’50s and ’60s. Bill has a couple of Cris-Crafts.
Fifteen years ago I started the Lakeside Wooden Boat Show. It’s been my baby on ever since. Last year we had 80 boats. The boat show has turned into the second biggest weekend at Lakeside, with the Plein Air Festival. The two just pair together beautifully. One of the artists’ paintings is used for the poster the next year.
So you’re busy all summer?
Bill: It’s sort of like summer camp for adults. The new thing is pickleball courts.
Mame: It’s just the way life is for us. We’ve been very blessed. Before it was people from Ohio, Michigan, the surrounding areas. Now we have neighbors from Arizona, Texas, California They come, then they bring their friends. Their friends are like, why are you coming to Ohio for the summer? Then they come, and they get it.