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'Good little secret' in Geneva opens doors to community

GENEVA – Al Kvistad of Bartlett is used to community members not knowing the Geneva hamlet where he and his wife sometimes live exists.

Kvistad and his wife, Alice, are among a small group of people who own a cottage at Good Templar Park, 628 East Side Drive.

Sunday, they welcomed visitors to their seasonal home as part of the third Cottages in the Woods holiday sale and cottage walk.

"We're proud to show it off," Alice Kvistad said.

Good Templars who immigrated to Chicago from Sweden bought the 60-acre park in the 1920s. During that decade and the 1930s, many Swedish immigrants lived there during the summer, originally in tents. They later built Swedish stugas, or cottages, that members now own.

The Kvistads purchased their cottage, a former meeting lodge, two years ago to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, they said. With help from their son Mike, they said, they transformed it into the cottage it is today.

After welcoming more than 50 visitors to their cottage on Saturday, the Kvistads greeted even more on Sunday as rosemaling artist Nadine Buck demonstrated the Norwegian folk art at a table near the door.

Bathed in midday sunlight, the Lisle resident said it was her second year participating in Cottages in the Woods, an event that keeps growing. Buck said people are enchanted by the cottages, which she also didn't know existed until she was invited to the show.

Two doors down, Inger Langsholt of Rockford sold Scandinavian gifts and home decor in a cottage she was using for the weekend. Her merchandise included posters of Santa that are common in Norwegian and Swedish homes.

"We have to keep some traditions alive," she said.

Warrenville resident John Gillenwater said he didn't know what to expect when he and his wife decided to visit Good Templar Park after seeing an ad for the weekend event.

Describing the community as a "good little secret," Gillenwater said he would consider buying a cottage for a getaway.

Kvistad said cottages are available, though the park will soon close for the winter. He and his wife wished they could have stayed at the cottage longer than the two and a half months they spent there this year, he said.

"It's just a fun place to come to," Kvistad said. "You become wonderful friends here."

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