All eyes will be on Ragdale this Halloween season, in more ways than one.
Four years after unveiling its wildly popular “Rags to Witches” family festival, a new “scream raiser” event just for adults is being added for a weekend of activities aimed to benefit programs for Lake Forest’s legendary artists’ residency.
Held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, October 18, “The Eye Ball,” will give adults (who says Halloween is just for kids?) the chance to dress up in imaginative costumes, see and be seen with fellow denizens of the night, bid on one-of-a-kind art works, and indulge in curious potions and bites. Even more thrilling (and scary) is that daring participants will be the first to tour the haunted Barnhouse. In addition to the real spirits that surely linger there (a portion of which is said to be the oldest standing building in Lake Forest, after all) a crew of performers will be lurking in the shadows to evoke the ghosts of Ragdale past.
Designed to be a preview for the 4th annual “Rags to Witches” festival on Sunday, October 20, the Halloween-inspired cocktail party builds on the event’s popularity and helps ensure that it remains affordable to local families throughout the Chicago area.
“Proceeds from our Friday evening fundraiser will help to cover costs of the Sunday event as well as general operating expenses for Ragdale’s arts and education programs,” explains Jeff Meeuwsen, Ragdale’s Executive Director. “It also allows us to make the most of a very unique, creative event. ‘Rags to Witches’ is remarkable, with more than 40 artists participating and 22 activity areas—we wanted to expand access to more than one day, especially after dark.”
One part preview, one part fundraiser (or “screamraiser,” as they are billing it), and one part artistic production, Meeuwsen says the kick-off event will be reimagined annually. “This offers the potential for new themes and entertainment each year,” he adds. “Last year it was called ‘After Dark’ and guests were encouraged to wear costumes that were illuminated. Next year will be a new surprise…”
Meeuwsen is also excited about the haunted Barnhouse attraction, open during both weekend events.
“The second floor of the Barnhouse will be open for the first time and all of the rooms will be possessed by artists—inspired by the thousands of former residents who have worked and slept in those rooms for more than 100 years,” he says. “Each room will have a theme and a bit of spectacle. We’ll preview the tour on Friday night and then open it to families on Sunday. It will be eerie and very visual, more than scary, but those that are very young or likely to run screaming might want to approach with caution.”
Prizes will be awarded in several costume categories and Meeuwsen encourages participants to be as creative as possible. Think costume party, with all the grand gestures that come with it.
While organizers may not have dreamed that “Rags to Witches” and now the preview fundraiser would be so popular in the community, both events speak to the origins of Ragdale and a history that goes back more than 120 years. A nonprofit artists’ residency located on the historic five-acre Lake Forest estate of architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, everything about the events speaks to the legacy Shaw left behind.
“The Shaw family hosted many curious, elaborate, and theatrical parties over the years. Inviting Ragdale artists to craft one of the most exceptional Halloween events in the region is a natural fit for Ragdale,” says Meeuwsen. “It’s also great fun to welcome people of all ages—guests and ghosts alike—to celebrate a beautiful season together in a most imaginative way.”
As an arts organization with the primary mission of giving creative practitioners the time and space needed to develop new work, Ragdale is typically closed to the public. For this reason, Meeuwsen says when the organization has a rare moment to connect its artists with the public, they make the most of it.
“We raise 90 percent of the funds needed to support our artistic, educational, and preservation programs each year—so fundraising is always top of mind. Ragdale wouldn’t exist without every artist, volunteer, and donor doing their part,” he adds. “That said, throwing engaging, inclusive events that are in line with the lore and mission of Ragdale, that are vehicles for artistic expression, and that invite adults and families to come together and enjoy the benefits of creative play—the world simply needs more of it.”
Advance tickets for Rags to Witches are $20 for adults, $15 for children, with a $60 per household (limit 4). Tickets at the door are $25 for adults, $20 for children. For more information, visit ragstowitches.net. Tickets for “The Eye Ball” are $75 per adult, with proceeds benefitting Ragdale’s artistic and school programs. Ragdale is located at 1260 N. Green Bay Road in Lake Forest. Free off-site parking and continuous “scary shuttle” service are available throughout the weekend between Ragdale and the Lake Forest municipal lot on the west side of Oakwood Avenue, just north of Green Bay Road. For more information, call 847-234-1063 or visit ragdale.org.
Something Witchy This Way Comes…
Ragdale’s “Rags to Witches” spook fest on Sunday, October 20, will once again entice guests and little monsters with live performances, hands-on art projects, games, and seasonal tastings throughout Lake Forest’s most imaginative (and yes, haunted) estate. A Halloween experience like no other, the event is designed and produced by a team of more than 40 regional artists and volunteers. This unique blend of more than 20 artist-led activities includes the following:
CURIOUS OBJECTS SHOPPE
The perfect place to pick up artist-made doodads, diddles, and duddly winks for your costumes and home decor. This new attraction offers participating artists the opportunity to place original and limited edition works in the shoppe. (Expect an enticing array of art, wearables, edibles, and home goods inspired by “Rags to Witches” and all things Ragdalian.)
A bewildering scavenger hunt filled with tricks, treats, and a magical beast.
PECULIAR POLTERGEIST PARADE
Giant dancing ghosts lead an interactive musical parade throughout the campus.
SPOOKY S’MORE STATION
Ooey gooey and ghostly treats for monsters of all sizes.
Children walk the runway to great applause and win prizes in multiple categories.
Ragdale’s award-winning writers and storytellers hold children spellbound as they weave their wondrous tales.
Come to the Witches’ Kitchen for spooky snacks and a bubbling cider cauldron.
Let our mysterious experts read your cards or palm to reveal what your future holds.
Even Dr. Frankenstein would be captivated by this ghoulish display of artist-made pieces and parts.
Talented makeup artists and face painters will take your costume to a new level of flashy fun.
SPIRITED TYPEWRITER POETRY
Receive a personalized poem while you wait, crafted by ghostly poets in residence.
CREEPY FAMILY PORTRAITS
Sit for a spell as professional artists create your uncanny imaginary relatives—neither caricature nor portrait, but most definitely bizarre.
SILLY SELFIE BOOTH
Weird and wacky props and backdrops to help capture the perfect souvenir photographs.
Join the spirits of Shaw family pets for visitations and performances under the old Elm tree.
MUSICAL FX MAKER
Assist our musicians in creating music fit for the netherworld.
MAD MONSTER MAZE
Get lost in the Ragdale garden where all manner of creatures come to play.
Driven by ghouls and witches, the shuttles will transport unsuspecting families to the haunted grounds of Ragdale—the only way to enter the hallowed estate.
FANG the RAGDALE HOUSE CAT
Over 40 feet tall, the haunted Ragdale House can only be entered through the mouth of the amazing cat named Fang—an original creation of sculptor Margot McMahon.
THE BARNHOUSE HAS EYES
Ragdale’s Barnhouse comes alive with dozens of special effects—and they’re all watching you.
REALLY STRANGE VARIETY SHOW
You never know what to expect in this eclectic extravaganza of supernatural music, dance, and theater.
HAUNTED BARNHOUSE TOUR
Lake Forest’s oldest residence, the Ragdale Barnhouse, holds mysteries and mischief dating back to 1838.
AFTER DARK LIGHTING SPECTACULAR
Noted lighting designers transform Ragdale into a glowing Halloween landscape for all to behold.