Staff Blogger: Sarah Milheim, Advancement & Communications Coordinator


1469941_10151865794362992_498147832_nEach year in December, Wesley Lodge is transformed into a Christmas delight.

To celebrate the holiday season, Lakeside Chautauqua hosts an annual Community Christmas Dinner held on Saturday, Dec. 6 in Wesley Lodge.

I sat down with Casie Eller, Programming manager, to learn more about this annual event. Eller’s year-round job at Lakeside is to provide administrative support to the Programming Department, especially the Vice President of Programming, Shirley Stary.

Eller has attended several events in Wesley Lodge, and this year’s Community Christmas Dinner will mark her fifth year attending the event.

Numerous Lakeside families attend the dinner each year, creating a wonderful tradition.

“It’s a nice way to connect post-Chautauqua season,” shared Eller. “The tables are full of generations, and kids are wearing their Christmas outfits – vests and patent leather shoes.”

Each year, the event includes a visit from Santa Claus, who speaks with the children and hands out gifts. Following time with Santa, live music adds to the atmosphere of the gathering.

“There are several music groups on a rotation, and each plays their own music in addition to carols,” explained Eller.

Eller, along Stary, selects the entertainment; this year’s music will be provided by children’s singer-songwriter Chip Richter. Richter will lead Lakesiders in Christmas caroling and a candle lighting ceremony while “Silent Night” is sung by all.

Wesley Lodge makes for a wonderful setting, decorated with poinsettias and twinkle lights, with a warm, roaring fire.

Several departments and staff members spend weeks preparing and decorating the space for the arrival of more than 200 Lakesiders for the evening. Red bows and tablecloths, white lights and beautiful greenery decorate the tables and window sills.

The buffet table is also decorated, and Black Tie Catering prepares the dinner. The smells begin to fill the room throughout the afternoon as the food is prepared for dinner.

The tree outside Wesley Lodge is decorated with twinkle lights and Christmas ornaments, and it is usually covered with fresh snow from a recent snowfall.

“Snow makes the whole dinner and holiday celebration magical and more whimsical,” commented Eller.

There are many staff members and volunteers that play a role in the success of the Community Christmas Dinner.

The Advancement & Communications Department promotes the event by updating information on the Lakeside website, creating invitations and handouts, posting details on social media, writing press releases, distributing e-newsletters, sending reminders about the event, taking pictures during the dinner and then sharing the pictures with the community on Facebook and Flickr.

The Director of Conference & Event Planning, Amber Schlering, purchases supplies, decorates the venue, prepares the dinner menu with Black Tie Catering and sets-up and tears-down the decorated Wesley Lodge.

Mary Ann Hirsch, director of Guest Services, organizes the event volunteers, helps decorate the venue, checks-in guests on the day of the dinner, clears dishes and assists with cleanup.

Ann Miller, Front Desk manager, not only collects reservations and payment prior to the event, she fields phone calls and questions at the front desk about the Community Christmas Dinner.

Several, generous volunteers also help by decorating the space, checking-in guests, serving punch and clearing dishes. These volunteers play an essential role in the success of this event.

“We can’t do it without them,” said Eller. “Each holiday season, the volunteers welcome back our Lakeside family.”

Lakeside Chautauqua invites you and your family to the Community Christmas Dinner at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6 in Wesley Lodge.

The Christmas dinner buffet will feature boneless pork medallion, baked chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, creamed corn, stuffing, water, coffee and punch.

The cost for dinner is $20 for adults, $8 for children (ages 6-12) and children under the age of 6 are free.

Due to limited seating, reservations must be made by Wednesday, Dec. 3. Payment must be made at the time of reservation.

To reserve, contact (419) 798-4461, ext. 0, email or return the Christmas Dinner RSVP Form to: Lakeside Chautauqua, Attn: Christmas Dinner, 236 Walnut Ave., Lakeside, OH 43440 by Wednesday, Dec. 3.

For those traveling from afar, Lakeside Chautauqua is offering a low rate, starting at $69, on overnight stays at the Fountain Inn. The discounted rate is available over the Community Christmas Dinner weekend, Friday, Dec. 5-Saturday, Dec. 6.

Quantities are limited and rates are subject to availability. Please note that the offer does not include applicable taxes. Each reservation includes complimentary Wi-Fi and continental breakfast.

Book online, and use promocode: CHRISTMAS or call the reservation line at (419) 798-4461, ext. 230. Consider this our Christmas gift to you.

Now it’s your turn to join The Front Porch conversation. Have you attended the Community Christmas Dinner in the past? What was your favorite part of the evening?