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Racers jockey for position during racing action on Lake Okabena. Brian Korthals/Daily Globe

Regatta cheer spreads from far and near

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WORTHINGTON — Lorraine “Rainie” Kluver’s name was particularly apt on Saturday, when the region’s skies released more-than-generous showers and frustrated scheduled events of the Worthington Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival, among other area activities.

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But Kluver and her husband, Kenneth, Worthington, didn’t let the stormy weather deter them, and by the time windsurfing races resumed around 2:30 p.m. for a couple of hours, the Kluvers were joined by many others also determined to salvage the day.

“We went out for a drive,” said Rainie from the couple’s perfect vantage point — their parked vehicle at Chautauqua Park.

Added Kenneth, “The windsurfers are beautiful to watch.

“And it gets kind of boring just being in the house after awhile.”

The Kluvers’ car was among a string of vehicles loaded with spectators at the site, all eagerly watching the windsurfers who dotted the water with their colorful sails.

“We’re not boaters, but the windsurfers are really pretty on the lake,” said Garnet Burns, Worthington, who had taken her brother, Roger Brust, for a spin. “We thought, ‘Gee, we have to stop and watch them for awhile.’”

One young couple sitting on a bench gazed intently at the action on Lake Okabena.

“We really wanted to check it out because it only happens once a year,” said Pam Schutt, a Worthington Christian School teacher.

“It’s my first time ever seeing this,” said Schutt’s companion, Taylor Van Kley of Luverne.

“I’d like to try windsurfing sometime — I think it would be fun,” asserted Schutt confidently.

“I haven’t had a good history with water-related things,” chuckled Van Kley as he explained why he’d leave the windsurfing to others.

“I’ve had stitches twice — once from an accident in a swimming pool, once on a water slide, and I fell into the river when I was white water rafting,” he listed. “It might be safer for me to stay on shore.”

Staying on shore, however, was only a temporary choice for avid windsurfers Ray Muller of Thunder Bay, Ontario, and Jerry Bachmeier of Bloomington.

The pair relaxed on a Lake Avenue bench, sipping cold beverages while dressed in wetsuits, as they related why they weren’t among the current racers.

“I only brought one sail this year, and it’s too small for this amount of wind,” said Muller, 57, who said he’s attended at least six Worthington Windsurfing Regattas but missed the 2013 event because he misplaced his passport.

“You need big wind for small sails.”

Bachmeier, a 54-year-old pilot by profession, caught the windsurfing bug about seven years ago and now keeps a “hobby van” sporting the phrases “Gotta go catch some wind” and “Ride that wind.” It’s loaded with all his windsurfing gear and is ready at a moment’s notice to go wherever the windsurfing crowd is headed.

“I watched the storm from my van, and then Ray asked me if I’d like a beer,” said Bachmeier.

“So we’re doing the next best thing to windsurfing,” winked Muller.

Another windsurfer leaped from the water in a panic and breathlessly inquired if either Muller or Bachmeier had a socket wrench.

Bachmeier rushed to the rescue, and the windsurfer (“He wins a lot,” Bachmeier confided) was soon back on the lake, heading off to get in another race.

“There are a lot of wonderful people here,” said Muller about why he hates missing a Worthington windsurfing event. “The camaraderie and fun we have with people here over the years is great, and we’ve gotten to know everyone.”

A little ways down the path, Andrew Gross and his girlfriend Jessica Mahler of Stewartville said they had returned to Worthington for the weekend to visit Gross’s mother and take in the Regatta and music festival.

“Friday night we listened to music and ate some awesome kettle corn, and the beer garden was fun,” said Gross as he shot photos of the stormy clouds and the lake. “It’s like a reunion — I mean, Turkey Day is a holiday and so is the Regatta.”

Another holiday being celebrated over the weekend was Father’s Day, and that made for a perfect excuse for a family get-together for the Brauns, who live one short block from Lake Okabena.

“At least it’s windy for them — that’s what they like,” said Audrey Braun of the windsurfers. Braun had walked to the lake with her mother, Jean Bolluyt of Luverne, along with her daughter Melissa of Austin, plus her daughter-in-law and two grandchildren from Sioux Falls, S.D.

“My dad, Duane, has Stage 4 brain cancer,” shared Melissa. “That’s part of why we all came for Father’s Day and the Regatta.”

“They gave him 18 months to live, and he’s already made it two and a half years,” said Braun. “The doctors were surprised he made it this far, but he said he was going to see our 40th wedding anniversary, and we celebrated that on June 7.

“Now he’s got other goals set, and I think it’s his attitude,” Braun opined. “The doctors say, ‘Keep up what you’re doing.’”

While Duane Braun rested at home, his family had enjoyed festival food earlier in the week (“I liked the gyro,” said his wife) and the grandkids (Izzie, 3, and Connor, 5) frolicked by the lake and played with their Shih Tsu, Tucker.

It’s that kind of atmosphere — music-filled and family friendly, but with plenty of competition for serious windsurfing racers as well as lighthearted windsurfing opportunities for enthusiasts like Muller and Bachmeier — that keeps people coming back to the Worthington Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival.

Testified regatta co-founder and organizer Jeff Hegwer later Saturday night to about 100 people assembled at BenLee’s Café, “It’s a miracle.

“This thing took off and took on a life of its own,” he noted. “We surrounded ourselves with good people, and a whole lot of people come together every year to make this happen — it’s all kind of magical.”

As the musical group Ride prepared to play “Stand by Me,” Hegwer continued, “It turns out Bill (Keitel) and I are really good salesmen — we sold wind. This is a wonderful thing, and I’m very grateful.”

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