Wilmette, Community

Open water race makes comeback to Gillson on Saturday, June 19

Come on in, the water’s fine. 

That’s the sentiment from the Ouilmette Foundation, which is inviting locals to join the third Wilmette Open Water race at 7 a.m. on Saturday, June 19. 

The race, which attracts around 100 participants, is returning after a one-year hiatus related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is designed to get people to use the beautiful lakefront and raise money to support the park scholarships,” said Phil Andrew, chairperson for the event and an avid swimmer. “It’s about celebrating the beautiful lakefront and natural swimming, doing it for a good cause and doing something healthy and spreading the joy.”

The race begins on the north end of Gillson Beach, and swimmers head south to the rock jetty and loop back to the main beach. 

The race costs $70 and participants receive an official race towel and swim cap and funds go to the Ouilmette Foundation, which raises money to benefit programming and facilities of the Wilmette Park District. You can register online here.

A participant sports a towel and swim cap she received for swimming the race.

For instance, the foundation provides financial support to park-district users who may not be able to pay full programming fees. The foundation also develops and executes beautification projects, Andrew said.

The Wilmette Open Water race was the brainchild of Andrew and Holly Gilson, the foundation’s president, four year ago.

Year 1 welcomed more than 80 participants, while Year 2 grew to 100. This year, Andrew said, more than 100 swimmers have already signed up. But there is room for more. 

Andrew said the 1-mile swim is safe and caters to all skill levels — he also added the lake temperature has risen to a mild 72 degrees.

“It is a perfect entry-level swim,” he said. “It’s super safe, you can stand up, it’s very well guarded with wilmette’s finest. Wetsuits are allowed. There have been no problems in three years. 

“It is super easy and safe for folks who are interested in giving this a try.”

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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