Windsurfing Regatta sails under way today
WORTHINGTON -- The shores of Sailboard Beach will once again draw windsurfing enthusiasts and spectators, musicians and listeners this weekend for the seventh annual Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival.
Events get under way quite early today, with windsurfers arriving, registration commencing at noon and musicians taking to the stage at 3 p.m. Although there are no races scheduled for today, it is anticipated that there will be recreational sailing throughout the day as winds allow.
"We are very excited about this year's Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival," said Dennis Hall, president of the Worthington Okabena Windsurfers, host organization for the event. "Bill Keitel and Margaret Vosburgh have a great lineup of music covering all three days. Jeff Hegwer promises some outstanding races as conditions look quite favorable for the Regatta."
The Regatta will once again be a U.S. Windsurfing National Race Tour event. Serving as race director will be Kevin Gratton, a world-class windsurfer with extensive experience in staging windsurfing races. Hegwer, who co-founded the event with Keitel, intends to absorb Gratton's knowledge to further enhance the racing experience for the future.
"He's just giddy with excitement to teach and offer his assistance," Hegwer said about Gratton's involvement. "My job as a student is to seek out the best teacher. His style is complementary to what we want to do, trying to increase our event to more of a national caliber event. My desire is to have one of the more serious race events on the tour while maintaining the education and music factors."
Under Gratton's supervision, Hegwer said the public can expect to see more racing on Lake Okabena, no matter the wind conditions.
"His nature is to run the windsurfers until they drop," Hegwer said.
As in years past, Windsurfing instructors Roger Jackson and Ray Kuntz will be available to offer basic windsurfing instruction, plus there will be information offered on the Midwest Speed Quest -- an ongoing competition on Lake Okabena with a substantial prize purse -- as well as beginning racing.
On the music side of things, Keitel, Vosburgh and other volunteers began contemplating this year's entertainment before last year's event was over, searching out musicians who have the capability to entertain and educate. Musicians will dominate the stage for all three days and will offer several music workshops on Saturday.
"We try to avoid bands playing cover tunes, because that's what bands the world over do," Keitel explained. "We strive for a festival that's known for its originality, and the musicians you can expect to see at the Unvarnished Music Festival will not disappoint."
The festival atmosphere will be enhanced by a variety of food vendors, a beer garden, a soda garden and the Arts and Activities on the Shore, which includes arts-related activities for children as well as an arts festival with vendors selling their creations. Children are encouraged to search the shoreline for some hidden treasures.
"We understand there's been a backwash up to Lake Okabena from the Gulf of Mexico, leaving behind some species of shells not commonly found in northern lakes," Keitel hinted.
For a second year, local ham radio operator Randy Shirbroun has secured the call letters W.O.W. and intends to conduct a worldwide broadcast from Sailboard Beach. Additionally, there will be an auction of one-of-a-kind designed Adirondack chairs at 6 p.m. Saturday, with proceeds going to the Freedom Veterans' Memorial Park, which is currently under construction on the south shore of the lake.
Keitel stressed that local residents can support the effort by bringing their lawn chairs and taking in the spectacle of the windsurfers on the water as well as the on-stage entertainment.
"This is the seventh year, and the Worthington Okabena Windsurfers would really like to express their gratitude to the public," he said. "The growth of this festival is directly hinged to the generosity of this community. You've heard this before, but no other place does a community come together and welcome windsurfers like they do in Worthington. We just want to express our gratitude to the residents by putting on the nicest, most musical, the windiest, the most family-friendly festival. Your continued support is what buoys our enthusiasm."
"This year's event is shaping up to be the biggest and best ever, and we invite everyone to the shores of Lake Okabena to join in the fun," Hall added.