With preparations finished, festival begins
WORTHINGTON -- The tents are up, many of the food vendors have arrived and the musical stage has been erected. The 2013 Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival is officially under way.
This is the 14th year of the celebration, which was started as an informal gathering of windsurfers along the shores of Lake Okabena.
"As I recall, years ago Bob Cashel made the comment that Fargo, N.D., is considered the windiest place in the Midwest, and he said Worthington is probably the second windiest place," explained one of the event founders, Bill Keitel, recalling a conversation with the late Daily Globe reporter. "I was just starting to windsurf, and I realized that Fargo didn't have a lake. So I figured that would make Worthington one of the windier lakes in the Midwest."
Also noting that Worthington was at a point between the wind generator fields going up along the Buffalo Ridge to the northwest and near Des Moines, Iowa, Keitel thought the city's windy status could be a claim to fame, so with help from the Chamber and other community partners, he printed up some brochures and his family distributed them at a windsurfer swap meet in the Twin Cities.
"Lo and behold, people showed up that first year and we had good wind," Keitel recalled. "All we did was have the city close the street that first year. But people recognized it was a colorful event."
At the end of the day that first year, the participants gathered around a campfire and played music, leading to the idea of combining the regatta with a music festival.
"Some of the windsurfers who came brought their guitars, and everyone partook in the music, whether it was with shakers, small conga drums or whatever," Keitel said. "These were people who knew how to jam, and that was the start of it."
"Overcome with enthusiasm and wild ambition," Keitel and co-conspirator Jeff Hegwer presented the idea of the windsurfing-music festival to the Chamber, and the notion took off. Now, the Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival draws both world-class sailors and renowned musicians to Sailboard Beach each year.
"Ours is a world-class Regatta," said Hegwer, who now serves as race director for the event. "Our race committee has been working hard on pulling stuff together. Every year it's a huge amount of effort that goes into getting everything ready to go."
Hegwer currently lives and works in Mason City, Iowa, so he counts on his Worthington windsurfing colleagues to do the local legwork. Meanwhile, he's been busy designing and crafting the event's trophies -- a task he has personally taken on for the last several years.
"It's hard to reinvent yourself each year," said Hegwer, admitting that he is a bit behind on the task this year due to work obligations. "I tried to make it simple, but still dramatic, but the trophy takes on a personality of its own, and that's not what it wants to be. It always turns out exactly the way it wants to be."
Racing events will get under way Saturday morning, but windsurfers are expected to begin arriving today. The forecast calls for mostly sunny conditions with a light wind today, with more variable weather on Saturday, boding well for the windsurfers.
"It's going to be partly-everything, and that's perfect," said Hegwer. "Part rain, part sun -- the rain will bring the wind. It's not favorable for all aspects of the event, but it's an outdoor festival. When we've got a mixture of weather, that means a front is coming through, and the wind will come with it."
Vendors will be open for business by lunchtime today, and the beer tent begins serving at 5 p.m. Instead of being on tap this year, the beer will be served in cans, and a variety of frozen specialty drinks and wine will be offered. On Saturday, the tent will open at 2 p.m.
The music festival kicks off tonight with the opening ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Following the national anthem and flag-raising, Patchouli will take the stage at 6 p.m., followed by Havana Hi-Fi at 8 p.m. The Shoreline Jam --reminiscent of the gathering of musicians at the very first Regatta -- will follow at various locations along Sailboard Beach.
For more information about the Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival, go to worthingtonwindsurfing.com.