Crystal Lake has changed a lot since Bob Blazier and his wife moved here in 1962.
Crystal Lake’s population more than quadrupled. Rural farmland turned into bustling shopping centers and subdivisions. Businesses popped up faster than you could count.
As Crystal Lake grew from a small city incorporated in 1914 to a thriving Chicago suburb, the city changed for the better, and there’s plenty to love, Blazier said.
“We saw a real feeling of community when we first moved here,” Blazier said. “People were flocking to the area. We saw a great potential for growth.”
Blazier worked in the school system and then for the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce. Blazier said there are several aspects of Crystal Lake that set it apart from neighboring towns.
“Just today I was commenting on how well-kept neighborhoods were,” Blazier said. “The whole town itself has done a great job.
“There’s been a high quality of maintenance to city property, roads, parks, schools. The public areas are very well maintained,” he said. “The other thing is there’s a real variety of retail facilities. It’s wonderful what downtown Crystal Lake has done. They’ve reinvented themselves into a boutique-type community with specialty shops.”
Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley echoed many of Blazier’s sentiments, and added that the city’s proximity to Chicago is a benefit other Midwest towns can’t beat.
“We have small-town character and feel with immediate access to the big city via the train,” Shepley said. “We have best of both worlds here.”
Shepley moved to Crystal Lake in 1972 and said despite the tremendous growth, the city hasn’t lost its small-town character.
“When I moved here the population was 15,000. We have a community of 45,000 to 48,000 today. Yet I think we’ve managed to maintain the same type of character and feel that we had when were were a smaller community,” he said.
“Around here people know their neighbors,” he added. “There are a lot of towns that can’t say that.”
The economy is what brought Sakina Kapadia to Crystal Lake in 1993. Having grown up studying occupational therapy in Mumbai, she moved to the U.S. where there were more job opportunities.
She worked in three Crystal Lake school districts before opening her own therapy clinic in 2008. The move to the U.S. was intimidating, but the character of the people in Crystal Lake made the move easier, Kapadia said.
“I met people who were very friendly,” she said. “You don’t feel like a stranger. You feel like family.”
If families are the heart of Crystal Lake, the police and fire department are the ribcage that keeps the community safe. Chris Olsen, bureau chief of training for the Crystal Lake Fire Department, said Crystal Lake residents look out for each other.
“Overall the city has a true dedication to its citizens,” he said. “It’s a city that manages its funds properly. It give the citizens the best service it can offer.”
But few have the level of perspective on Crystal Lake like Blazier, who said he expect the city’s next 100 years to be even better than the first.
“I’ve developed a real feeling of pride for what this community is like, and I’ll continue to feel that way,” Blazier said.