Feel the breeze: 13th annual Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival opens
WORTHINGTON -- Sunny skies and ideal breezes made for a perfect opening Friday to the 13th annual Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival.
Windsurfers began taking the boards to Lake Okabena by afternoon, and opening ceremonies for the Worthington's yearly summer extravaganza began about 5:30 p.m. on the music stage. The ceremony included the singing of the national anthem by 2011 Worthington High School graduate Brandon Berger, and the raising of the U.S. flag by Worthington resident Gerardo Martinez.
U.S. Windsurfing Association President Bill Keitel, who helped found Worthington's regatta, told the several hundred people gathered on Sailboard Beach that Martinez recently became an American citizen. Martinez, for his part, said he's proud to be an American, and to call Worthington home.
"I love the U.S. because this country is more perfect than any other country," said Martinez, who earned his citizenship in February 2011. "I like Worthington because there's not too much trouble.... Big cities are dangerous, but over here is nice.
"We have a lot of diversity -- a lot of wonderful people. Some people just use the brain, but people here also use the heart."
Martinez, from Escobeta, Couahila, Mexico, arrived in Worthington in 1993 and worked for many years at what is now JBS. He is now learning to improve his reading and writing of English --he already speaks the language -- in the hopes of returning to the workforce after suffering an injury that left him idle.
While Martinez has called Worthington home for nearly 20 years, windsurfer Andy Gratton was preparing Friday to participate in his fifth Worthington Windsurfing Regatta. It's an event he said he always looks forward to.
"I just love the whole festival," Gratton said. "It's the only place where we can hear music while we're on the water. The whole town bends over backward for this event, and that doesn't happen in other places."
Gratton, who will be competing in the Unlimited class this weekend, was accompanied to Worthington by wife Ann and daughter Andrea. His brother, Kevin, has taken part in past Worthington regattas in the past, but isn't here this weekend.
Ann Gratton is a member of the race committee and will be out on Lake Okabena for the windsurfing action, while Andrea will compete in her first Worthington regatta in the women's sport fleet division.
"I'm intermediate, and for me this wind is a little much," Andrea said. "But it's a really good learning experience to have this wind."
In addition to being a boon for windsurfers, Keitel couldn't help but point out an additional advantage of the breezes.
"Now that we have 7-to-14 knot winds, there will not be a mosquito problem," Keitel said.
Musical performances by Lehto, Wright & Jacobs and Ipso Facto were also part of Friday night's festivities. A full slate of activities is scheduled for today, and the festival concludes Sunday.
To see the full Worthington Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival schedule, visit www.dglobe.com.