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Winterfest 2012 makes a splash

Worthington High School junior Kara Honius was crowned the Winterfest Queen Saturday afternoon as part of the Winterfest celebrations in Worthington.3 / 5
Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman of the Board Dave Hartzler cannonballs into Lake Okabena during Saturday's Deep Freeze Dip in4 / 5
Jami Cummings takes the ceremonial first plunge into Lake Okabena during Saturday afternoon's Deep Freeze Dip. A fund in her name was established to provide swimming lessons to area second graders.5 / 5

WORTHINGTON -- Fish were caught, a queen was crowned, hearts got healthier and more than $14,000 was raised for the Jami Cummings Learn To Swim program. All in all, Winterfest 2012 was a rousing success.

On Saturday morning, Karl Schmitke and his son Charlie headed from Chandler to Lake Okabena to enter the SW MN Fishing Club Tournament. First, they had to stop and pick up some ice fishing poles in Worthington. Although they do a lot of fishing in the summer, Charlie said he had never been ice fishing.

"Not that I remember, any way," he added with a laugh.

According to Karl, they arrived at the lake with a bucket, minnows and poles.

"We had read in the paper that this was a family event, so it seemed like a good idea, but I don't have an auger," Karl explained. "Someone came and augered out holes for us to use, which we really appreciate."

The fishing was fine, but the catching wasn't all they had hoped it would be.

The biggest fish caught during the tournament was a 2.54 pound catfish, earning Josh Lowe the Otter two-man portable fish house. The second place fish, a 1.37 pound walleye, earned fisherman Bob Siefert an Eskimo auger.

Shortly after all the prizes were handed out at the weigh-in spot near Centennial Beach, a crown was being anticipated at Chautauqua Park. Crowned Winterfest Queen 2012 was Kara Honius, daughter of Kirk and Michelle Honius. Kara is a junior at Worthington High School. She works part-time at Hy-Vee, serves as a life guard in the summer, and loves to ice skate in the winter.

For the next year, Kara will represent Winterfest at various festivities such as King Turkey Day, the Holiday Parade and other events. For her first official duty, she watched the antics of those crazy and/or brave enough to participate in the Deep Freeze Dip.

Twenty-two people took a deep breath and hurled their bodies into the cold water of Lake Okabena, all in the name of raising funds to help children learn to swim.

Jami Cummings started things off officially, wearing a shirt with a picture of two people who may have died this summer if she hadn't been nearby to save them from drowning. Shortly before jumping, while still bundled from head to toe, she looked out over the frozen lake toward the hole that had been cut in the ice and grimaced a bit.

"Oh, that looks cold," she said, then smiled bravely. "It'll be fine. I'll be in and out quick."

And she was indeed. After jumping into the water with gusto, she climbed out of the water with help from Worthington Firefighter Scott Hain and headed across the lake to take advantage of the warming shacks set up on the beach.

According to event organizer Chad Cummings, the hole in the ice was a bit farther out onto the ice than usual because the water level in the lake is lower this year. That made for a cold walk out onto the ice, and an even colder one on the way back.

"You have no idea how horrible this wind feels," he told the crowd who watched from the shore.

One by one, the jumpers stood at the end of the hole in the ice, took the plunge and hustled out of the water.

"Oh, that's cold," Pizza Ranch owner Dave Hartzler yelled before he even reached the ladder.

Others weren't quite so vocal, possibly because they weren't capable of it.

"How's the water?" Chad asked one of the female jumpers.

The only response was a squeak.

As usual, the Deep Freeze Dip brought out the zany in several of the jumpers. A group representing the Adrian Schools came decked out in blue and gold.

Taylor Ahrenstorff jumped in with a minnow net in case he spotted any fish.

Several bright swim caps were spotted, a set of cut-off striped overalls made an appearance and Worthington City Councilman Mike Woll showed up in a tuxedo, ripped his shirt off with verve and jumped wearing the slacks and his trademark bow tie.

Woll, who had decided to make the jump just days before the deadline, got pledges for $2,000.

There was a fine bit of strutting, leaping, cannonballing and shrieking by the time it was done, but all of the jumpers seemed to recover without a problem.

Up on shore, Hartzler asked an onlooker with a camera if they had gotten a good picture of him.

"If not, I could do it again," he offered.

While she didn't quite show the same amount of enthusiasm as Hartzler, Jami said the dip wasn't quite as bad as she thought it would be.

"The walk back was the worst," she admitted. "And I'm very happy with the money we raised."

Jumpers at the Deep Freeze Dip included Jami Cummings, Josh Shuskuy, Tayor Ahrenstorff, Jason Grovom, Jaime Salinas, Dave Hartzler, Terri Elias, Susan Bullerman, Lara Fransen, Lauri Varley, Cory Van Briesen, Christina Timmer, Big Orv, C.J. Nelson, Jeff Nickel, Tina Nickel, Nancy Remakel, Mike Woll, Kyle Strampe, Leon Bullerman, Matt Widboom and Chad Cummings.

Daily Globe Reporter Justine Wettschreck can be reached at