The Way We Were: Crystal Lake Park

The Way We Were: Crystal Lake Park

Crystal Lake Park has served canoeists, bicyclists, cross-country skiers, walkers and fishing fans — and too many geese — in its greenish waters. It became Urbana's first public park in 1907.

Crystal Lake is a remnant of the Big Grove north of the city, and once was the private Union Park. The public pool was the first in East Central Illinois, according to the park district, replaced by the Crystal Lake Family Aquatic Center. And its replacement Lake House has hosted innumerable weddings.

'The paddle-boat escape'

Staff writer PAUL WOOD interviewed MARCUS and ISOBEL JOHNSTON, who held their 2005 wedding under the skies on a hill north of the lake. Afterwards, they got into a paddle boat, with a line of well-wishers taking to a bridge over the lake. Marcus was wearing a kilt, the Johnston tartan, and Isobel, a Champaign native, wore a sari. She remembers the day as steamy.

"It was June and it was about 100 degrees," she said. "We didn't notice, but apparently not all of guests were that thrilled."

Not so the bride and groom. They'd been living in Mussoorie, India (and now live in Arizona). The paddle boat was a place for a temporary escape. In Jewish tradition, the new bride and groom, after being separated and undergoing fasting, have a time by themselves to eat a snack and reconnect, she said.

"Everyone loved the paddle-boat escape," Marcus said. "But because of that, no one was around to tell them we had a reception in the Boat House! So it was just us two and the immediate family to cut and eat the cake."

It all worked out; they now have two children.