By Lauren Zeugner
KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — Kosciusko County is lucky to have two water ski clubs that perform for the public within its borders. And while their focus is different, with one being more competitive than the other, the focus is on having fun and family.
Both the North Webster Ski Bees and Lake City Skiers have long histories. The Ski Bees started in 1953 and is in its 70th season, while the Lake City Skiers is in its 34th season. Both perform shows for the public, with the Lake City Skiers being the state’s only competitive water ski show team and four time Division 2 National Championships. The team has grown significantly to move into Division I and will be hosting Division I Show Ski Nationals Aug. 11-13.
Doug Jones, secretary/treasurer for the Ski Bees, said the team size varies from year to year because the club understands members are extremely busy off the lake. “Some people ski one show a year, others do five shows a year,” he said.
For a show, the Ski Bees can have between 15 and 50 people participate. The club is made up of people, who are great skiers, to those who have no working knowledge of how to water-ski, and one gentleman who has been with the club since it started in 1953.
“It’s pretty normal to have a granddad driving the boat pulling his grandkid,” Jones said. “It’s common for members to stay for a year while others come and go.”
Key positions for the shows are held by “die hard” members, these are boat drivers, dock people and announcers.
The Ski Bees were a competitive club at one point, but the focus turned to more of a family event. As an example, Jones explained his son learned how to ski then trick- ski through the club. The Ski Bees focus is on water-skiing as a sport. Jones noted water-skiing isn’t as popular as it used to be with knee boarding and wake surfing growing in popularity. Still, younger members are taught to ski and slalom ski.
“We try to keep them moving up the ladder, so by the time they graduate high school they’ve had a taste of everything,” Jones explained. “We try to keep it at its core what it used to be, but have had to incorporate a lot of (new) things.”
The Ski Bees have two more public shows in its season, July 29 and Aug. 12. The public can watch practice on Webster Lake at 9 a.m. with the show being performed at 6 p.m. The best place to watch is the town beach or by boat in the designated area.
The Lake City Skiers have about 154 members in its club with about 80 skiing and the rest as support.
“It takes a lot of people on shore for the people on the water,” said Chuck McLaughlin.
Like the Ski Bees, the Lake City Skiers will also take members who don’t know how to water-ski and teach them.
McLaughlin said potential new members can join anytime. If they come in during the season, they would start water-skiing right away, but their skill levels would determine when they would start performing and competing in the show.
In addition to club dues, members also need to be members of USA Water-Skiing/Wake Sports, which is part of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
The club does about 20 home shows a year, as well as some travel shows with the last show of the season being an all-star show featuring members from other teams performing with the Lake City Skiers.
The club is multi-generational with the third generation of members participating.
“This is our largest year ever, which is great,” said McLaughlin.
The age range of the water skiers is from about 5 to 60 year olds.
The club practices and performs on Hidden Lake in Warsaw. Practice days are Monday and Wednesdays with home shows at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Sundays. The shows are free to the public. McLaughlin said when preparing for a competition, extra practices are added. “This time of year we’ll practice three to four times a week,” he said.
With nationals coming up, Laughlin explained individual club members will compete Friday, Aug. 11, with teams competing Saturday and Sunday. There are 14 teams competing in nationals this year.
McLaughlin said the Lake City Skiers will have an hour to perform 13 acts on the water, any act not performed will not be scored. Teams have an additional 20 minutes to set up ropes, props and music and 10 minutes to tear down after their turns.Admission to nationals is free, but there is a $5 parking fee.
Both clubs appreciate the support they receive from its communities and sponsors. For more information about the Webster Ski Bees, visit websterskibees.com or Lake City Skiers visit lakecityskiers.org.