WORTHINGTON — Late Friday morning, Tina Hamblin was talking about how she was happy to be back along Lake Okabena for the Windsurfing Regatta and Music Festival.
“It’s really nice to see people,” said Hamblin, who operates Z & Z’s Bar.B.Q and has been doing so since 2005. “People are always like, ‘do you have a restaurant?’ I say no … and I’m getting too old.”
Even though Hamblin and the additional food vendors were just opening at the time, it had already been an eventful day. A storm front delivering strong winds in front of scattered showers and thunderstorms blew in shortly before 8 a.m., creating all kinds of havoc before this year’s Regatta had officially set sail.
“I was holding this tent down … and everything kind of started flying around,” Regatta board president Josh Miller said. “Then one of the banners from the stage went flying, and one of the speakers started rolling — I ran that down and put a block in front of it. As I was running after that, I saw the beer tent going down.”
Miller noted that Hamblin’s tent was destroyed during the windstorm, and her food was knocked to the ground. He said he’d hoped to get her and her food stand “rolling as fast as possible,” and meanwhile worked to get a beer tent replacement for the one that had torn from the powerful gusts.
“We had worked with Big Top Tent Rentals in Luverne; we called them and they were over here in 45 minutes,” Miller said.
Several portable toilets also reportedly toppled during the brief storm, but there were no injuries. By shortly after 11 a.m., it appeared that much was back in place for a typical Regatta celebration — the first in two years after the 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19.
Hamblin, for her part, was looking forward to offering ribs, barbecue chicken, jerk chicken, New Orleans seafood gumbo, baked beans and potato salad to festival attendees, adding that “everyone likes the pecan bars” and rum cake. She brings her business to some other festivals in the region, but tries “to keep it local in Worthington.”
The “Z & Z” in Z & Z’s Bar.B.Q comes from her daughters, Zalea and Zory, Hamblin said. Her mom, Mildred, is originally from New Orleans and also helps.
Meanwhile, working to the right of Hamblin’s setup was Best Way, which had come down from Minneapolis for at least the third time to do business in Worthington. Operated by Moody and Sabina Babaca, the couple has travelled to festivals to sell their food since 1997.
“We came from Bosnia in 1993,” Sabina said. “My husband worked in a Greek restaurant in the Cities, and I work at a medical company.
“We have chicken gyros and lamb gyros and both of them come with pita bread, vegetables, red pepper, green pepper, onion, tomato and cucumber sauce,” she added. “There are good people here. We like to travel, and it’s a good festival. We’ve met a lot of good people here; they’re very nice and friendly.”
Josh Lingen, who owns Lingen Dairy in Balaton, is back for his second Regatta and said he enjoys the festival and the folks associated with it.
“It’s organized by a great group of people and it’s also a really great group of vendors,” Lingen said. “I was really grateful to be invited back.”
Lingen said the vendors work well together and try their best to support each other during the Worthington festival.
“If you’re a respectful food vendor, you don’t want to take away from anyone else,” said Lingen, who is limiting his offerings this weekend to ice cream. “You want everyone to win.”
The food vending component of the Regatta goes well, Lingen added, because of festival organizers who “when you ask the right questions, you get the right answers.” He also said he’s developed a good relationship with Miller, the Regatta board president.
“He’s our insurance agent … and we’ve become friends,” Lingen said.
Also arriving from out of town to serve food at the Windsurfing Regatta and Music Festival were Kita and Lep Soungsouvandy, who brought their Lep’s Take Me Out food truck to the community. The couple, who are also repeat Regatta vendors, made the trip from Butterfield and were selling Lao and Thai cuisine.
“We’ve done pretty good business here and enjoyed the environment,” Kita said. “The people really seemed to enjoy the food.”
The food sold at The Cheese Carriage, meanwhile, has been enjoyed by Regatta-goers for about as long as the festival (first hosted in 2000) has been in existence. Sue and Paul Koob of Worthington have attended the Regatta since the get-go, and have been a vendor at the event for 16 years.
“It’s great to be back,” Sue said, noting the one-year hiatus. “I missed seeing the people, and missed the camaraderie. It’s just been tons of fun, bottom line.”
The Koobs — assisted by their grandchildren, Madison and Presley Sieve — were selling cheese curds, corn dogs, dipped corn dogs, hot dogs, pop and water.
Other vendors that will be set up this weekend along Sailboard Beach are TnT Indian Style Tacos, Jon-e-l BBQ and JS Kettle Corn. All vendors are slated to be open starting at 11 a.m. both today and Sunday.
On Friday night, opening ceremonies were followed by musical performances by both Ben Johnson and festival headliner Casey Donahew. Despite the rough start to the day, Miller was pleased with how things were going and enthusiastic about what lay ahead.
“It’s just nice to see that everyone came together,” he said, noting that a few local firefighters helped Friday morning where they could. “It could’ve been bad, but it turned into one of those feel-good things.”
Besides food — not to mention the beer tent — on Saturday, a host of arts and crafts as well games for youths and families will take place, along with performances by Up South (4 p.m.), Bootleg (7 p.m.) and Sweet Siren (9 p.m.) A church service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday, and windsurfing will take place on Lake Okabena during both weekend days.