Lakefest began in the town of Culver four decades ago along the shores of Lake Maxinkuckee. In a town that enjoys tradition, Lakefest is still a pillar of summertime in Culver.

To recognize the significance of 40 years of Lakefest, one only needs to turn back time to 1984, when the simplicity of an idea came full-circle into a town-wide event and the deep roots of Lakefest were planted.

The brainchild of a small group of determined and entrepreneurial residents serving on the Culver Economic Development committee, Lakefest began as a concept among local leaders who sought to bring awareness and visitors to Culver in support of local business during a time of economic downturn. Original members of the committee included Bob Tanguey and Roy Shepard, who also served as Lakefest’s first chairmen. The idea came out of the committee’s weekly Saturday meeting with about 20 people in attendance, and everyone offered their ideas on how to create a successful event.

A focal point of the first festival included more than 40 food vendor stations, managed by Clara Hamson. Other activities included two-on-two basketball competitions, an arts and crafts show, the Miss Maxinkuckee and Miss Junior Maxinkuckee contests, and an antique car show that doubled as a fundraiser from the entry fees collected, thanks to the strategic thinking of Mike Maddox. According to Shepard, one other early activity was a “Burnout” contest, where participant drivers would disconnect their rear brakes, drive up to the grandstand and spin out their tires. That might not pass today’s environmental guidelines.

Lake Fest retro photo
Lake Fest retro photo

Like many small-town celebrations, a parade was a signature part of Lakefest from the beginning, under the leadership of Connie Van Horn, and participants included the Culver Woodcraft and Upper Camp Bands, Culver Troop and other student marching groups. Fireworks were also a part of early Lakefests, managed by the fire department, until it was agreed that certified fireworks operators would take over the activities. To advertise Lakefest in the early years, Shepard and others went on local television and approached other community festival organizers to learn their best practices.

Most of the original festival activities remain part of the program today, led by Lakefest President Andrea Canacci, events coordinator with the Culver Visitor Center. Canacci graduated from Culver Girls Academy in 2011, and went on to study Hospitality at St. Mary’s in South Bend and later at the University of Central Florida, with additional training in the Disney College Program, culminating in a keen understanding of guest services and experience. Canacci’s education and innovative approach to community service through models of organizations such as Teen Serve fostered her talent for helping Lakefest volunteers feel that their roles, whether big or small, all matter the same in putting together a great festival experience.

Today the mission of Lakefest points to the people who are the reason this community event is uniquely successful. The Culver Lakefest team is an all-volunteer, nonprofit group committed to giving back to the Culver community by raising funds to plan and host a weekend of family-friendly activities and entertainment, and by offering opportunities for community groups, civic organizations and businesses to raise funds to help them achieve their goals.

In addition to timely help from individuals, many organizations and groups have stepped in over the years. One example is when Canacci needed volunteers for Lakefest trash pickup, so she invited Culver Community Schools (CCS) football players to volunteer and have the funds raised by Lakefest go back to the football program. Another example is when the CCS girls volleyball team volunteered as shuttle drivers, again having the funds raised return to the volleyball program. This year the local boys basketball team will help with the hotdog eating contest during Lakefest. Canacci looks to local schools to get involved as volunteers, so that Lakefest visitors from surrounding communities can learn about Culver’s local schools and might find the Culver community a supportive and attractive place to live.

“Without these valued volunteers, the festival couldn’t happen,” Canacci says. “Whether the task at hand is trash pickup, event setup or breakdown, we are grateful to the many individuals and groups who show up for a few hours or a few months.” For the past two years Canacci has worked to attract visitors by appearing on WSBT’s “HomeTown Living” segment, and with posts on social media.

Planning for this year’s 40th Anniversary Lakefest is well underway, and there are openings for all kinds of volunteers and sponsors. In addition to the summer Lakefest, other events throughout the year include Fall Fest, Winterfest and other annual events, which are detailed at the Visitor Center and at

“Someone might have parents who had their own Lakefest memory from 40 years ago, and now this person is having their own experience,” Canacci says. “I’m grateful for a place like Culver that bonds us through shared stories based in multigenerational memories.”

What began in 1984 as a collaborative effort to breathe fresh ideas and fun into Culver’s summer season will take place this year July 19 through 21, carrying on many of the iconic festival events and honoring the volunteers who have been the key to Lakefest’s longevity.

For more info, go to or email for questions and additional details.

Comments 1

  1. Shelli Arriaga says:

    What fun Lakefest is! It has changed quite a bit over the decades but the drawing of people to the shores of Lake Maxinkuckee is still the main event. Side note… I was the first Miss Maxinkuckee.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Welcome Back!

Login to your account below

Retrieve your password

Please enter your username or email address to reset your password.

Send me your media kit!

hbspt.forms.create({ portalId: "6486003", formId: "5ee2abaf-81d9-48a9-a10d-de06becaa6db" });