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Organizers prepare for 7th annual Regatta

WORTHINGTON --With a thick layer of ice still coating most of Lake Okabena, it's difficult to imagine the shoreline crowded with an eclectic mixture of windsurfers, musicians and local residents.

But the 2006 Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival is just four months away, slated for June 9-11, and organizers are preparing to make the event bigger and better than ever as it goes into its seventh year.

"It truly is a total community happening, giving us the opportunity to stage a wonderful event on one of our greatest natural assets, beautiful Lake Okabena," said Dennis Hall, incoming president of Worthington Okabena Windsurfers, the organization that hosts the Regatta. "Preparations are under way to ensure that this year's race and music stages will deliver something for everyone. No matter what you are looking for -- speed on the water or great musical entertainment -- this year's event will have it all. I believe the Regatta and The Unvarnished Music Festival has become one of Worthington's signature events."

Members of the group Ande Marimba from New Mexico wowed festivalgoers last year by continually demonstrating their musical expertise on marimbas of all sizes throughout the festival. The festival's music committee recently secured Ande Marimba's agreement to return for 2006. According to committee member Margaret Hurlbut Vosburgh, they usually don't consider the same group two years in a row, but realized that this would probably be the only chance for a return engagement with the young musicians, who will soon be headed off to college and other ventures.

"People just loved Ande Marimba, from the little kids who weren't even old enough to see above the marimbas to the adults who stood around on Sunday afternoon and watched them play on the beach," Vosburgh said. "What I really loved about the Ande Marimba kids was their ability to bring people into the music and let people play their music. I've had several people stop me and say, 'Can you bring them back?' even right after the Regatta last year, and people are still saying that to me."

An agreement has also been reached with another headlining group -- Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem, a string band from Massachusetts that has been described as "neo old-timey with cosmopolitan splashes of contemporary pop and jazz," as well as The Brass Kings, three musicians from Minneapolis who play more unique instruments -- resophonic guitar, washtub bass and scrub board.

"They are so much fun, and their music is original," said Vosburgh. "It's just plain fun to see a guy up there playing a washboard bass. When I looked away, I couldn't tell the difference between a standing bass and the washboard bass."

Hometown harmonica player Noah Hoehn will be joined by Boyd Lee and Joe Cruz, who have just released a new CD, and the committee is also hoping to bring in a group of African drummers who previously performed at Worthington's King Turkey Day festival.

Through networking in the windsurfing community, a buzz has been created about Worthington and its unique combination of water sport and music. Last year, WOW member Craig Bergh initiated the Midwest Speed Quest, an ongoing effort that brought windsurfers to Worthington throughout the warm weather months, hoping to become the fastest windsurfer in the region and win a cash prize. The quest will continue again this year.

"First off, we're offering more prize money, $1,000 to the fastest surfer by the end of the summer, which is the highest prize money in speed surfing that we know of," said Bergh. "The other thing we're doing is preparing to have a speed sailing clinic at the Regatta. We're going to bring in an international expert on speed sailing (from Australia). An invitation has been made and accepted. This event will also be announced at the premier international speed sailing site in the Netherlands ... and we're also working on inviting one or two speed sailing celebrities from Europe."

Bergh also contributed to the buzz about Worthington by creating a DVD, "Ten Minutes in Worthington," that showcases scenes from the 2005 Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival. It has been distributed at major windsurfing venues across the country, and Bergh has mailed copies to all 50 states as well as Europe.

"We continue to get requests for it," Bergh said. "In the last few years of the Regatta, we've had such excellent photos taken, and I just wanted to see these photographs distributed, both for the benefit of the windsurfers and the benefit of Worthington."

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Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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