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Worthington's first Winter Fest conquers January conditions

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe US104's Matt Widboom attempts to catch a football as he jumps into Lake Okabena Saturday afternoon in Worthington as part of the Deep Freeze Dip to raise money for the Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight. The pass was incomplete.1 / 3
Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Allison Jaycox, 17, of Worthington, was named the first Winter Fest queen during ceremonies Saturday afternoon on Lake Okabena as part of the first Winter Fest in Worthington.2 / 3
Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Prairie Elementary assistant principal Josh Noble performs a cannonball jump, making good on pledges collected from Prairie students and staff.3 / 3

WORTHINGTON -- While the Deep Freeze Dip was the main event Saturday, there were a few other festivities scheduled in conjunction with Worthington's first Winter Fest.

The Southwest Minnesota Fishing Club's ice fishing contest drew 105 anglers, despite Saturday morning's unusually rainy conditions. During its three-hour duration, 39 fish were hooked -- predominantly walleye and perch. The biggest fish -- a 3.2-pound walleye, was turned in my Virgil Reed of Worthington.

"What a lot of people fail to realize is that Lake Okabena is a phenomenal fishery," said Chad Cummings, who helped to organize the event and served as emcee for the festivities.

Arlen Foss had the privilege of crowning the first Winter Fest Queen, Allison Jaycox, daughter of Chad and Kristin Jaycox of Worthington, who was chosen because of her enthusiasm for winter outdoor activities.

"One of her favorite pastimes is snowmobiling," described Foss. "If you challenge her to a hill climb on your snowmobile -- good luck!"

A 17-year old senior at Worthington High School, Jaycox participates in cross country, golf, band, orchestra, student council, National Honor Society and FFA. Next year, she plans to major in biology at Iowa State University, but in the meantime, during her reign, she will represent the winter season at a number of other area events.

"It's exciting to be the very first Winter Fest Queen," Jaycox said following her crowning in Saturday's continuing drizzle. "It was really an honor to be asked to do it."

Organizers hope to make Winter Fest an annual event, and plans are already under way to expand into more events, such as a snowmobile radar run and a golf tournament on the ice, for the 2011 celebration.

But this year, all eyes were focused on the Deep Freeze Dip and the foolhardy individuals who chose to spend their afternoon waiting for a chance to bathe in the glacial waters of Lake Okabena. The participants represented local schools, businesses, organizations or just individual efforts to raise money for Honor Flight and had collected pledges that varied anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.

Members of the Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight committee, which is spearheading the effort to send veterans from Nobles, Rock, Pipestone and Murray counties to see the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., had the chance to address the assembled crowd of several hundred people before the Deep Freeze Dip began. Terry Gulden of Luverne drove over to witness the inaugural wackiness and to personally thank local citizens for the money they've contributed to the Honor Flight effort.

"It's just really exciting to see what has happened and developed out of this," he said. "And this is giving us lots of ideas of crazy things we can do" to raise more money for the cause. "There are exciting things going on in all four counties."

The ceremony also gave organizers the chance to let both participants and spectators alike know how much money was raised through their Deep Freeze Dip pledges.

"Over $40,000 has been raised for Honor Flight in less than two weeks," said Cummings to the astonishment of even some of the committee members, who had initially hoped to garner $5,000 from this event.

"These crazy people," he said, pointing to the Deep Freeze Dip participants, and then to the crowd, "and all of you did that, and it's still not done. There are still donations coming in."

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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