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Worthington 150: City hosted first Windsurfing Regatta in 2000

At least 50 confirmed reservations were received from Midwestern windsurfers of various skill levels.

Racing action
Windsurfers race during the 2022 Windsurfing Regatta on Worthington's Lake Okabena.
Tim Middagh / The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — The idea for a windsurfing regatta in Worthington was planted long before it became a reality, and involved local businessman Bill Keitel and a conversation he had with a local weather expert who believed Worthington was the second windiest region in the United States.

150 YEARS OF WORTHINGTON
It was a noisy, hilarious and potentially dangerous scene. But the merchants of 1934 declared it a huge success.
One night he ran smack-dab into a group of evangelists while staggering out of a saloon. He was converted on the spot. Since then he traveled all across the country preaching the gospel and convincing sinners to “get right with God.”
The city’s Army National Guard unit, Co. F of the 215th Coast Artillery, was ordered to active duty in 1940, a full year before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.

“Fargo (North Dakota) is indisputably the windiest. Fargo doesn’t have a lake, but Worthington does,” Keitel shared in The Globe in early June 2000. “The Department of Public Service has put together some very definitive maps that prove this is the windiest spot in the Midwest that has a lake.”

Keitel had been windsurfing for at least a dozen years, and Jeff Hegwer for about eight years. Both spearheaded Worthington Okabena Windsurfers, and know firsthand that Worthington’s Lake Okabena has prime conditions for the sport.

“This is not just a contrived event,” emphasized Keitel. “People look at Worthington now and say this lake does have the best wind.”

“High and consistent wind,” added Hegwer. “We’d been kind of thinking, having good intentions, for six years, and good intentions turned into actions when the Worthington Convention and Visitors Bureau became involved (in planning a windsurfing event).”

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Leading up to Worthington’s first-ever windsurfing regatta in 2000, Keitel and Hegwer spread the word to fellow windsurfers and listed the event in the U.S. Windsurfing Association calendar of events and with the Minnesota windsurfing organization, which has called the Worthington regatta “the event of the summer.”

Sailing
Peter Hartwich, of Excelsior, Minnesota sails on Lake Okabena between races during the 2022 Worthington Windsurfing Regatta.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

A regatta is a term that generally denotes speed — seeing which sailing vessel can go the fastest. But the Windsurfing Regatta will be more about promoting the sport and Worthington’s natural resource — Lake Okabena.

At least 50 confirmed reservations were received from Midwestern windsurfers of various skill levels, and the organizers hoped to entice a lot of locals into giving it a try.

“It’s more about fellowship,” said Hegwer. “The main requirement is entertainment and fun. We’re not stressing competitiveness.”

The gathering place for the regatta was the east lake edge, near the former power plant site — a spot now dubbed Sailboard Beach. A two-block section of Lake Street was barricaded to facilitate the gathering.

The two-day agenda included a swap meet where people could buy used equipment, get instruction and attend clinics, and participate in surf activities and attempts at formations. There was also entertainment, a hog roast and community mixer. Events were scheduled hourly beginning at 9 a.m. both days, but a lot will depend on wind conditions.

Regatta crowd
Crowds gather to hear musical acts during the 2022 Windsurfing Regatta and Music Festival on the shores of Lake Okabena.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

“Windsurfers recognize that the wind doesn’t blow all the time,” said Keitel. “It’s not a sure thing.”

The event was deemed a rousing success after the fact, with all of the elements coming together — wind, waves, surfers and sun. Colorful sails filled the lake as sailboarders danced their way across the waves, sometimes racing in organized events, sometimes just honing their freestyle skills.

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By noon on that Saturday, more than 75 windsurfers had registered, hailing largely from the Twin Cities area, but also from Fremont, Nebraska; Dallas Center, Iowa; and Yankton, South Dakota. And by the end of the day Sunday, more than 115 individuals had registered.

The winds had calmed on Sunday, facilitating beginners’ lessons. The more advanced windsurfers offered their skills for teaching instead of surfing. Organizers estimated that at least 50 people hopped on a board, achieving varying levels of success.

150 YEARS OF WORTHINGTON
A timeline that celebrates big moments in our town's history.
The Indian culture along the shores of Lake Okabena remained undisturbed until the mid-19th century, when white settlers first moved into the area.
An addition to the junior and senior high complex, the auditorium was designed with the classic art deco features so popular at the time.
The first public school consisted of 49 students and two teachers who met in various rented rooms throughout the village.
First festival focused on playing soccer.
Committee member recounts sorting everything from dresses and suits to shoes.
Ludlow a figure in Worthington's early history.
“Building international relations on a community-to-community basis … represents a new approach to democracy.”
Jack started as an immigrant shoemaker and went on to lead a flamboyant rags-to-riches life. He was part of an interesting era in Worthington’s history.
Last local casualties were from Vietnam war.
The founder of this unique partnership visited Crailsheim in 1958, when she was decorated with the “Bundersverdienstkreuz Erster Klasse.”
His home still stands today as a bed and breakfast.
The Mobergs and Larsons came to America together in 1870, an arduous journey by boat, foot, wheel car and railroad.
E. O. Olson was a prominent figure in Worthington's history
Worthington was a natural for the natural ice industry. The railroads were here. The lake was here.
Worthington’s economic base began to broaden from the narrow pedestal of farming to the much broader one of agriculture.
One Worthington woman who was close to the welfare scene expressed it another way: “I never told my kids how tough we had it. And I forgot it as soon as I could.”
Worthington soared to a new population of 3,481 persons by the 1920s.
Adrian proposed dissecting Nobles County so it could reign over a new county.
In 1916, a hexagonal bandstand was built about 75 feet out on Lake Okabena at the foot of Third Avenue.
His most notable accomplishment was in 1911, when the four-story hotel which bears his name was built, with 118 feet of it faced on 10th Street and the courthouse square.
While Worthington City Hall maintains all council meeting minutes, the early minutes are handwritten.
From the first permanent house to the largest King Turkey Day in 1966, Worthington has a storied past.
Prior to 1909, post was termed president.
Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle shares thoughts on city's milestone anniversary.

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