Celebrate Fourth of July in Lakeside

Posted on July 01, 2015

Lakeside Chautauqua’s Fourth of July celebration begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 4 with the Children’s Bike Parade departing from Perry Park. Participants of all ages should arrive early with an already-decorated bike.

Following the bike parade will be the Fourth of July Float Parade at 10:15 a.m. Both parades will travel west on Second Street. Spectators are invited to dress patriotically as part of this Lakeside holiday tradition.

The Grand Marshals for the float parade will be Heidi and Brent Behnken, who have owned and operated The Patio Restaurant for 25 years.

Enjoy the taste of summer at a Fourth of July cookout from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on the Hotel Lakeside lawn. This year, the cookout will be catered by Avery’s Cafe & Catering. There will be a choice of a 1/4 rack of BBQ ribs or a 1/4 BBQ chicken. The meal also includes baked beans, potato salad and apple pie for a total cost of $9. Water and pop will be sold for $1.

As part of the Fourth of July festivities, all are invited to enjoy live music and other entertainment at the Pavilion and the Steele Memorial Bandstand (Central Park Gazebo) from 11:30 a.m.-9:45 p.m.

At 9:45 p.m., fireworks will offer a spectacular finale to the holiday. This year, a barge will be used to launch the fireworks east of the dock. Therefore, the dock will close at 8 p.m. Please watch for signs at the Pavilion for more information.

Meet the Grand Marshals

On Saturday, July 4, Brent and Heidi Behnken will lead the annual Fourth of July Float Parade past the Lakeside landmark they have called their own for the past 25 summers.

The Behnkens bought The Patio Restaurant in May 1991, two months before they got married. Both lifelong Lakesiders, they saw the restaurant as an opportunity to continue spending their summers on the grounds.

"When I was a kid, I would come here to get donuts, and now I sell the donuts,” Heidi said. “It’s kind of crazy. It’s always been here."

The Patio was in rough shape when the Behnkens took control. They worked hard to get it ready for that summer season and earn back its reputation. Brent said his father, who died in 2009, was a great help in getting the restaurant off the ground.

In 1992, the restaurant burned down. After Lakeside Chautauqua funded a new building, the Behnkens resurrected The Patio a second time. They reopened just before the start of the next summer season, in the middle of the second United Methodist conference.

Lakeside has changed in many ways since the Behnkens took over The Patio, but their strong work ethic has not. Brent’s average work day starts at 6:15 a.m. and ends at 11:15 p.m. Heidi helps on busy days and also handles the restaurant’s weekly payroll. They both continue to have fun in those long hours.

“I laugh more in three months (at Lakeside) than I do the rest of the year,” Brent said.

Through running The Patio, the Behnkens have passed the Lakeside tradition on to their three sons — Joshua, 21; Jeremy, 18; and Jayden, 13 — who have all worked in the restaurant.

“We really like that our kids get to come here and grow up here in the summer,” Heidi said. “We really like doing it for them.” The Patio’s other young employees are part of their family, too. “The kids,” as the Behnkens call them, stay in touch after leaving the restaurant, and often invite Brent and Heidi to their weddings and baby showers.

In the off-season, Brent and Heidi live in Brookville, Ohio, and run a business buying and selling restaurant equipment. They said they are not sure what the next 25 years hold, but they will spend at least the next 10 summers continuing to serve Lakesiders.

When asked if The Patio will stay in the family, Brent replied, “Our sons love Lakeside, so I’d say there’s a pretty good chance.”