Get in front of the big screen with these outdoor movies

Dave Craham (left) of Woodstock and his wife, Nicki, watch RC Juggles perform while attending the first Summer in the Park festival in2014 at Emricson Park in Woodstock.
Dave Craham (left) of Woodstock and his wife, Nicki, watch RC Juggles perform while attending the first Summer in the Park festival in2014 at Emricson Park in Woodstock.

A common winter hibernation practice is taking to the couch or theater to watch a good flick. But summer months don’t mean you have to take a movie hiatus.

Paul and Shannon Letizia are the originators of Cruise Night on Monday nights in McHenry on Green Street. The McHenry couple, owners of Financial Dynamics Inc., wanted to bring an event to the downtown that would bring the community together, give a promotional platform to local businesses and offer an opportunity for groups to attend and raise money for their chosen causes.

After two successful Cruise Night seasons, the Letizias wanted to create a community event with the kids in mind.

“We already had Cruise Night for the adults, so we wanted to do something for the kids,” Shannon Letizia said. “We thought, why not a family movie night?”

On the horizon of its eighth year, the Back to Family Movie Night in McHenry is gearing up to show four films each Friday night in September at Veterans Memorial Park.

Admission is free, the popcorn is free, the games before the movie are free, all provided for the community by the Letizia’s business.

“We wanted to offer something that’s fun for the family and doesn’t touch their wallets,” Letizia said. “This is our way of giving back.”

Last year’s lineup included “Moana,” “Boss Baby,” “Smurfs: The Lost Village” and “Monster Trucks.”

The timeslots for the 2018 shows are to be determined as they have not yet been chosen by “the committee.”

Letizia chooses a list of new released-to-video movies and leaves the choosing in the hands of their 11-year-old daughter, Teagan, and her friends. Letizia sends ballots out via mail and tallies the answers. The four with the highest number of votes win a Friday night showing.

“The kids get really excited to get the ballots in the mail. It’s a fun process,” Letizia said. “We always make sure the films are family friendly and more of a kid movie. Adults love to bring their kids out and most adults have an appetite for kids’ movies, so it works!”

It certainly works for Shelley Doherty and her family. The McHenry resident attended showings in 2016 and 2017 with husband, Shaun, and daughter, Kinlee, 2, and son, Evan, 6, in tow. Doherty volunteered with fellow The Chapel parishoners for the 2016 season, donating and running some of the games before the screenings. Doherty said she definitely has plans to return this year for a night of family fun.

“It was great! We want our kids to do things in McHenry, where they will see friends from school, sports and the neighborhood,” Doherty said. “We want to have those experiences in our town, not any other.”

So grab a blanket, a chair or a back seat because the Northwest Herald has a list of local movies in the park taking place throughout McHenry County this summer. So get outside and in front of the big screen!

Algonquin - Outdoor Movie Night

When: Dusk, June 16, 23 and 30

Movie: “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” (June 16), “Avatar” (June 23) and “Grease!” (June 30)

Where: Algonquin Commons, 1900 Randall Road, Algonquin; big screen between Ta Wan Thai Restaurant and Mattress Firm

Admission: Free

Crystal Lake – Kids Party in the Park

When: Dusk, Aug. 10

Movie: “Coco”

Where: Main Beach, 300 Lakeshore Drive, Crystal Lake

Admission: Free

Additional activities: Todd Downing puppet show at 7 p.m.; ice cream-eating contest at 8 p.m. for children ages 5-9 (register at star105.com)

* In case of inclement weather, the party will move to the Main Beach Pavilion Room.


When: July 20, Aug. 10 (around 9 p.m., when dark enough for viewing)

Movie: “Coco” (July 20)

Where: Deicke Park, 11419 Route 47, Huntley

Movie: “The Wizard of Oz” (Aug. 10)

Where: Parisek Park, 10881 Allegheny Pass, Huntley

Admission: Free


When: Dusk, June 23, July 28, Aug. 17

Movies: “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (the movie to play July 28 will be voted on by attendees June 23 and the movie to play Aug. 17 will be voted on by attendees July 28)

Where: Hiller Park, Skyhawk Lane, Johnsburg

Admission: Free

Lake in the Hills – Drive-in Movie Night

When: June 30 (parking opens at 7:30 p.m., movie begins at dusk)

Movie: “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

Where: Sunset Park, 5200 Miller Road, Lake in the Hills

Admission: $5 a family for lawn seating for walkers and bikers, $10 a car (first-come, first-served)

Marengo – Friday Summer Movies
in the Park

When: Dusk, June 22, July 20, Aug. 3

Movies: “Peter Rabbit” (June 22); “Despicable Me 3” (July 20); “Coco” (Aug. 3)

Where: Indian Oaks Park, Indian Oaks Trail, Marengo

Admission: Free

McHenry – Back to Family
Outdoor Movie Night

When: Every Friday in September (pre-movie activities begin at 5:30 p.m., movies begin at dusk)

Movie: Movies to be voted on in July and posted in August on the Back to Family Outdoor Movie Night Facebook page, www.facebook.com/backtofamilyoutdoormovienight

Where: Veterans Memorial Park, 3400 Pearl St., McHenry

Admission: Free

Additional activities: Games, raffles, prizes and free popcorn

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