Over the last 12 months, we have asked residents, business people and local officials to name their favorite things about living in Lake County.
We received a variety of responses over those 49 weeks (we didn't include this week and Dec. 31.) In analyzing the responses, we have discovered four recurrent themes.
Our totally unscientific poll shows residents really love:
• Each other, as in members of this community we call Lake County,
• All things natural, as in parks and wide open spaces,
• Their own villages and activities therein,
• A variety of restaurants and food joints.
Those responding to our query pointed to the effect the residents of Lake County have made on their lives and the lives of others.
Adeline Geo-Karis, the former longtime public servant, has met presidents, soldiers, celebrities and athletes over her 88-plus years of living. But Lake Countians are special, she said in January.
"The people of Lake County are friendly people," she said. "They're nice, and they're helpful people."
Not only are they nice, but they are very tolerant of other religions, faiths and colors.
Ibrahim Mohamed, an imam who gives sermons at Islamic Foundation North's mosque in Libertyville, said earlier this month residents are "embracing, warm and generous."
"And that has really made a very positive impression on me," he said. "They are very excited about having us (Muslims), about welcoming us, about learning what the Muslim community is all about. That's a very nice change from the stereotyping and Islamophobia that you see everywhere."
All things natural
This was the most repeated theme by far throughout the year. Respondents talked about the abundance of open space in the county, the availability of bike trails and the access to water as reasons they like Lake County.
In June, Grant Township's Clerk Nancy Nystrom told us she considers it a real joy to live along the shores of the Chain and its 13 lakes.
"Having lived in Fox Lake for about 40 years, I have yet to find anything I like better about Lake County than these lakes," she said.
But the county's extensive system of bicycle trails topped the list of fave things for several residents, including Mundelein Police Sgt. Fred Kliora. He mentioned the Des Plaines River Trail.
"You have a lot of wildlife and a lot of lakes," he told us last month. "And of course you have the river."
As much as residents enjoy the county's forest preserves and the diversity of its people, they also take pride in their own communities and what is offered.
Take for example Libertyville businessman Jack L. Martin, who enjoys downtown Libertyville's many activities, including the summer farmers market.
And Round Lake Area Park District Executive Director Jeff Nehila says his favorite thing in Lake County is his hometown, Round Lake Heights.
"All the places I've been have been great, but this one is special," he said in June. "It has a hometown feel, people generally respect your space and the growth in the area is only going to make this area even better to live in."
The foodies speak
Between the pizza places, Mexican food joints and hot dog stands, it's no wonder many people chose their favorite restaurants as the best thing about Lake County.
Take Rich Hill, the mayor of Round Lake Beach. He has been a patron of the Dover Straits restaurant in Mundelein for at least 10 years.
"The seafood they serve is excellent," he said in February. "It's top notch."
Lake Zurich resident Ron Miske goes for the hot dogs at Main Dog in downtown Lake Zurich.
"They have great hot dogs," he told us in March. "They put on a full-length slice of pickle on there, which is like an eighth of an inch thick."
What follows is a complete list of responses from our 2007 project, week by week. Did your favorite thing about Lake County make the list?
A list of the greatest things about Lake County
(Starting with the first response on Jan. 1 and ending on Dec. 17.)
• The people of Lake County: former State Sen. Adeline Geo-Karis
• The Lake County Forest Preserve District: Katherine Hamilton-Smith, director of cultural resources for the district
• The lakes: Spencer Loomis, Lake Zurich historian
• Libertyville's farmers market: Jack L. Martin, businessman
• Gages Lake: Glen Kozlowski, former Bear and coach at Wauconda High School
• Mount St. Joseph Home in Lake Zurich: Michelle Lanter Smith, president of the Hawthorn Woods Women's Club
• Gilmer Road House: Nancy Faust, organist for the White Sox
• Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park near Zion: retired Cook Library librarian Fred Byergo
• The Dover Straits restaurant: Rich Hill, Round Lake Beach mayor
• "Geezering": Jack McKeever, Lindenhurst's police chief
• Main Dog in Lake Zurich: Ron Miske, Lake Zurich resident
• Egg Harbor restaurant in Lake Forest: Lovie Smith, Bears coach
• Century Park, Vernon Hills: Marla Pineiro, Wauconda resident
• Genesee Theatre, Waukegan: Lauri Duncan, Lake Villa resident
• Location, between Milwaukee and Chicago: Curtis Gentry, former Chicago Bear and CLC professor
• Bike paths: Craig Adams, Mundelein's deputy fire chief
• University of Illinois Extension office: Susan K. Lyons, master gardener
• Liberty Prairie Conservancy's Prairie Pedal: Nathan Aaberg, director of development for the conservancy
• Willingness to help animals: Len Hackl, chief warden for Lake County Animal Control
• Mundelein High School show choirs: Christopher Starck, Lake County chief judge
• Cook Park in Libertyville: Randy Nelson, executive director of MainStreet Libertyville
• Lake County Technology Campus: Dan Coles, superintendent of Wauconda schools
• Chain O'Lakes: Nancy Nystrom, Grant Township clerk
• Round Lake Heights: Jeff Nehila, Round Lake Area Park District director
• Fort Sheridan beach: U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk
• Diversity: Richard Keller, Lake County coroner
• Food safety and health: Anthony Smithson, director of environmental health services for the county
• Independence Grove: Joy Swoboda, superintendent of the Woodland school district
• Blackthorn Grill in Lake Villa: Dan Venturi, Lake Villa Township supervisor
• American Legion Post 911: Joe Munson, Wauconda Township highway commissioner
• Clean water from Lake Michigan: Bill Gentes, Round Lake's mayor
• Franks for the Memories in Mundelein: Charlie Balicki, manager of Dreamland Comics in Libertyville
• Family-friendly activities: Barbara Porch, Antioch's chamber of commerce directory
• Access to open space: Chris Geiselhart, Libertyville environmentalist
• Ethnic diversity: Rolando Vazquez, Lake Zurich High School's athletic director
• North Point Marina in Winthrop Harbor: Tom Agos, crime prevention technician for Gurnee police
• Reflections Restaurant and Jack and Lidia's Resort in Lake Villa: Sue Zook, administrator in the Hawthorn school district
• Golf courses: Rabbi Scott Looper, of Congregation Or Shalom
• History of Fox Lake: Howard "Bud" Scott, chairman of the Fox Waterway Agency
• Youth sports: Mick Torres, school administrator
• The Prairie House in Prairie View: Jesse DeSoto, dance instructor
• Easy access to airports: Harsh Kumar, Lake Forest surgeon
• Kayaking the Des Plaines River: Rev. Gary Graf, leader of Waukegan parish
• Motorcycle riding: Sal Saccomanno, Wauconda's mayor
• Libertyville and its downtown: Ahmed Amin, owner of Libertyville's Picnic Basket restaurant
• PM&L Theatre in Antioch: JoAnn Osmond, state representative
• Des Plaines River Trail system: Fred Kliora, Mundelein police sargeant
• Lake County Fair: Kathleen Van Dien, high school board member in Antioch
• Compassionate residents: Imam Ibrahim Mohamed of Mundelein