Swing Crew Lake Petite Sandbar Party
Lake Petite Sandbar, Fox Lake, IL
History of the PartyFrom the Brain Cells that are Still Alive
It all started as a simple idea, throw the band on a pontoon boat on Lake Redstone in LaValle, Wisconsin and party all night long. In those days we were young and didn't mind that the band wouldn't even start playing until 11:30 p.m. and finish sometime after 4:00 a.m. The first year the band performed unplugged (this was long before MTV got the idea to have unplugged specials for great bands). It was truly a great performance. The only problem is that drunk people do not hear too well so as the night went on the crowd got louder and the band got harder to hear. If my limited memory serves me correctly they were able to solve this problem by hopping from boat to boat and performing a couple songs on each boat. Since we were wise beyond our years (22) at that time we even locked the cops boat down to the boatlift to prevent them from crashing in on our fun.
The next year included the addition of a generator, t-shirts for those participating in the event, and a lot more boats. The party continued to grow over the years and we even had people swimming from shore to join the party.
All was going fine until we decided to put a port-a-potty on one of the old pontoon boats and build a 24'x32' dance floor out of floating docks and 55 gallon drums. The dance floor held even though it probably had 50+ people on it dancing to the sounds of the Swing Crew. The port-a-potty was another story though.
As the legend goes the port-a-potty was full and the girls were complaining to my father about it. Being a smart man and knowing that one could not see much in the port-a-potty he figured that the best way to find out how full it really was was to take a leak in it. At the same time, against all instructions to only have a couple people at a time on the boat, the line of girls got to the point of sinking one side of the boat. Like a head of scared cattle they all ran to the other side only to sink that side also. The herd turned around and headed back to the original side and jumped over to the pontoon boat next to it. This action caused the other pontoon boat to slingshot the port-a-potty, my father, and the entire side of the pontoon boat railing into the dark waters. Being on the other side of the party I ran like O.J. in an airport to get to the scene of the accident. My mother on the other hand instructed the band to continue to play (just like the Titanic sinking) to keep the crowd from getting out of control. Shorty, my best friend from college, was near by and dove into the waters (and you know what else) to save my father unknown to Shorty that my father was already climbing up onto another pontoon boat. I think the words ushered from my father's words were "Shorty, what the hell are you doing swimming around in that shit?". Now just to keep the record straight my father swears that he was actually walking out of the door as it all happened so he was not actually "in" the port-a-potty as the legend states. Needless to say we were lucky that no one was physically hurt and since we had several smart engineering students we were able to engineer up a way to get the port-a-potty back on board (and empty) so that we could continue the party.
Unfortunately though my parents insurance agent was on his boat that night to witness the whole incident and informed them that they may want to increase their liability insurance (by several millions) prior to having another party that starts at 11:30 p.m. in the middle of a lake. About this time I had exhausted my savings and realized that I must leave the wonderful world of college for the reality of the working-world. I decided to take a job in Illinois near the Chain-of-Lakes area. 10 lakes, 30+ miles of river, 20+ bars on the water, Blarney's Island, and of coarse the sandbar. Oh yea, the job wasn't bad either.
Being a long-time water skier I settled on a 18' speedboat but soon realized that the 5 person capacity severely limited the crowd that you could take along. Using my skills of persuasion learned in Public Speaking 101 I was able to get my best friend and his father to buy an old houseboat. The deal was they buy it, I pay for the slip, and we all split the repairs. Geography 101 taught me that my chances of using the houseboat were much better seeing how I lived walking distance from the marina and they lived 3+ hours from it. Also Economics 101 taught me that if I could get my other friends to pitch in for the slip that I would only have to pay for 1/2 of the repairs. College does pay. The houseboat know as "The Pink Flamingo" was well known on the chain. 6 guys originally purchased it and knowing that the 1971 houseboat would never be the nicest decided that they should make it the most recognizable. Hence the pink paint job came into play. Their deal was that whenever 1 of the guys got married that he would have to sell his share of the boat to the rest. As you can imagine the last bachelor got married and now had to sell the boat to a new party and hence we came along. Luckily for me my long work hours and moving every 6 months means The Pink Flamingo shouldn't need a new owner any time soon.
The combination of a 34' houseboat, built in bathroom, and the waist-deep sandbar seemed like a perfect combination for The Swing Crew Party. Also our new friends at the marina also owned several houseboats and there is usually 50+ boats at the sandbar on a nice weekend to begin with. Now all that we needed was the band. Knowing that the band usually plays a Thursday and Friday night gig at Durty Nellies in Palatine we proposed doing a Saturday noon show since the band plays in the Dells on Saturday night. Thinking we could still party like rock stars we did the Thursday show, boated and partied with the band on Friday, did the Friday show, and were up by 7:00 a.m. on Saturday for bloody-marys and to get ready for the party. Needless to say if the first year was larger than anything we did in Wisconsin. And being waist deep in the water on a sandbar provides excellent dancing and no bathroom lines!
The party has grown beyond anything we have ever thought of and may have to start looking at permits for it. In 2004 we even had an aerial shot taken and there was over 200 boats at the party. 2005 marked the installation of a temporary No Anchor Safety Channel by the Lake County Police and the Fox Waterways Agency which actually worked extremely well.
In 2007 we surpassed the 1000 boat mark and had 128 boats that camped out overnight. 129 boats if you count the nice officers from the Lake County Marine Unit who were forced to camp out also and watch over the Friday night party. I also finally decided that I must retire from running the party as it takes far too much time to organize and also is way too much of a liability anymore. I'm sure I will choose someone to head it up in the future and I have to say that it was a very hard decision to give up something that has been a part of my life for 15 years..