Plan to attend Winterfest 2012WORTHINGTON — Because of what might be the wackiest and warmest winter on record, there were a few questions about whether or not Lake Okabena would be able to handle a crowd for Winterfest, but according to Southwest Minnesota Fishing Club Treasurer Matt Lowe, there’s plenty of ice.
WORTHINGTON — Because of what might be the wackiest and warmest winter on record, there were a few questions about whether or not Lake Okabena would be able to handle a crowd for Winterfest, but according to Southwest Minnesota Fishing Club Treasurer Matt Lowe, there’s plenty of ice.
“This year, we’ll restrict people to walking out — no trucks or vehicles,” Lowe explained. “We’ll decide that morning about ATVs and snowmobiles.”
High temperatures this week should be in the 20s or low 30s, so ice conditions shouldn’t deteriorate before Saturday’s Winterfest activities. Forecasts are predicting a clear, sunny day on Saturday, with highs in the upper 20s — perfect for some outdoor fun.
The Southwest Minnesota Fishing Club will host the Winterfest Fishing Tournament for the third year. Other Winterfest activities include the Deep Freeze Dip, crowning of a Winterfest Queen, the Healthy Heart Walk and a medallion hunt.
“We’ve had an average of 100 people each year in the tournament.” Lowe said. “It is open to everyone, there are no age limits. We’ve had lots of families participating in the past.”
There is a small entry fee, and participants can start registering at 8 a.m. at the Centennial Park boat landing by the pump house. The old municipal pool parking lot will be available for parking. Participants are welcome to bring fish houses with the understanding that trucks will not be allowed on the lake. For the “bring a pole and a bucket” anglers or those without augers, there will be representatives of the fishing club on hand to drill holes.
When a fish is caught — walleye, perch, whatever — the fisherman, woman or child is asked to bring it to the weigh-in station, which will be set up on the ice. The fish will be weighed and logged.
“If you catch another one, bring that in for weigh-in,” Lowe said. “We take the weight of the biggest one. We do encourage that all fish be released.”
The tournament runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. While official registration opens at 8 a.m., anglers don’t need to be there right away if they don’t wish to start immediately.
“We’ve had people that only fish for a couple of hours,” Lowe stated.
The 20 or so prizes on the line (pun intended) include a two-man Otter fish house, an 8 inch auger and other equipment from companies. Lowe said participants should register every fish, no matter how small, because the prizes won’t necessarily be given out in monetary order.
“We’re scattering things out, not strictly in order by value,” he explained.
Tournament rules will follow Minnesota fishing rules, and participants can have two lines in the water. Those who bring hard or portable houses may have the houses checked before the contest begins to assure no one has brought in a “ringer.”
Lowe said the majority of the prizes are purchased by the club to promote the tournament and Winterfest.
“It is nice to have the tournament,” he said. “Both for us as a fishing club, and for the community. We’re glad to help the (Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce) and the city keep this festival growing.”
For those who are looking for a little exercise, the fourth annual YMCA Healthy Heart Walk is taking place in conjunction with Winterfest for the first time this year. Registration begins at 8 a.m. at the YMCA, and the walk starts at 9:30 a.m.
“It is about a two mile walk,” said YMCA Executive Director Andy Johnson. “The walk route heads toward Olson Park and back. Those who prefer to be inside can walk on the track.”
The price of registration includes a long-sleeved t-shirt and some refreshments at the end of the trek. The Healthy Heart Walk is open to participants of all ages.
At 2:30 p.m., the Winterfest Queen will be crowned in Chautauqua Park. According to Winterfest co-chair Roxann Poulzine, sophomore and junior girls are asked each year to complete an essay about what winter means to them and what kind of winter activities they enjoy. The Winterfest Queen, whose name will not be released until the crowning, represents the festival throughout the year at other events.
Winterfest is generally a well-attended event, Poulzine said.
“We really encourage people to come on out and have some fun,” she said.
Many of the spectators are there to watch a friend or family member do something absolutely crazy — jump into the icy cold waters of Lake Okabena in the name of charity. This year, money raised from Deep Freeze Dip jumpers will go toward the Jami Cummings Learn to Swim Program, a new project designed to provide swimming lessons to all area second grade students.
“Mike Woll first brought up the idea at a YMCA board meeting,” Johnson explained.
“I just helped spark the idea,” Woll said. “It came out of the wonderful thing Jami did.”
Jami was driving past Sailboard Beach this summer when she heard cries of distress and saw what looked to be a person floating in the lake. Fully clothed, she jumped into the lake and saved the lives of a woman and child. The woman had been trying to save her drowning child, and Jami ended up saving both their lives.
A program designed to give swimming lessons to all area second graders could save lives, Woll said, and help create some healthy lifestyles.
Knowing that the Deep Freeze Dip organizers had not chosen a fundraising program, the board broached the idea with Radio Works owner Chad Cummings, Jami’s husband, who was very enthusiastic about the idea.
“When I was a kid, everyone took swimming lessons. That just isn’t the norm anymore,” Chad said.
According to Johnson, approximately 90 percent of first grade students are considered non-swimmers.
“There are too many kids not getting lessons,” he said. “We want to work with the school districts and get them while they are young.”
The program would provide each student with a 10-sessions. The first session would be at the school and include a dry land introduction to the program. Eight sessions would take place in the pool at the YMCA, then the last would be a celebration at the school.
“This has been a dream of mine since I got here 13 years ago,” Johnson admitted.
Funds would need to be raised to cover the cost of instructors, some materials and transportation. Because some students may not have swim suits, Johnson hopes to also have a few on hand.
The Deep Freeze Dip will take place on the lake right by Chautauqua Park, where observers can stand up on the road in the park and look down to see everything.
“We’re hoping to raise at least $12,500, which could get us through all of this year’s second graders and give us a good start at continuing the fund,” Chad explained.
Organizers are hoping to get at least 30 jumpers. They are required to register by Thursday, and are asked to raise at least $250 each. Pledge cards can be picked up at the Radio Works office.
Jami will be the first jumper, Chad said. Her employers, Worthington Federal Savings Bank, pledged $2,500 to start things off.
There will be some experienced jumpers and some “newbies,” and there will be warming houses up on the shore.
“We invite people to come out and cheer them on,” Chad stated. “It takes a lot of courage to jump in a frozen lake. We get a lot more people watching than jumping.”
This is the first year, Chad said, the city won’t have a city council representative — none are registered so far. The first year Mayor Al Oberloh and Councilman Mike Kuehle jumped, and the following year Councilman Scott Nelson took the plunge.
“I’m wondering where Lyle Ten Haken, Ron Wood and Mike Woll are,” Chad teased.
Daily Globe Reporter Justine Wettschreck can be reached at