By Joe Bachman
Wisconsin Rapids, a city known for its winning state water ski show team, will also be known as the hosts for the World Water Ski Tournament this weekend.
Friday night will kick off what will be the third bi-annual world tournament of its kind. The tournament will feature five countries — Belgium, China, Australia, Canada, and of course, the United States. The ski show is estimated to bring anywhere from 3,000-7,000 people a day to the region over the weekend, which means a boost in the local economy.
“I’d say about 99% of the hotel rooms in town are booked,” said Wisconsin Water Ski Federation (WWSF) delegate Maggie Muleski. “They’re booked up into Plover, Stevens Point, and even to Marshfield.”
The weekend will be hosted exclusively by the Wisconsin Rapids Aqua Skiers, and much like the state tournament in July, they are no stranger to preparation.
“The Aqua Skiers set up the entire tournament, and planned the entire thing — it’s all the aqua skiers.” said WWSF delegate Jordan Becker.
According to Muleski, much like state, they are turning Lake Wazeecha into a small ski village. This includes installing walkways to the ramp, bringing in unique food choices for all guests, and a partnership with the Grand Rapids Lions Club to take part in their “Music Fest” on Sept. 9 and 10, which will feature live music, food, and other activities.
The schedule of events will see opening ceremonies on Friday night at 5:30 p.m. at Red Sands Beach, with concession stands open as early as 4:00 p.m. Friday’s show will be free to the public, and will include a free ski show by members of the United States national water ski show team. There will also be performances involving the rest of the competing countries.
Saturday and Sunday morning will see actual competition from the teams, and an “invite only” tournament on Sunday night from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Gates open at 7:00 a.m. both days, with the first team on the water at 8:30 a.m. Admission for these days will be $5 dollars. For Packers fans, there will be televisions in a couple of the tents on Sunday.
With any international competition, there will be differences in cultures, and with that, a hopeful appreciation for the countries involved.
“For a small town like us, we’re bringing in an international tournament,” said Muleski. “I would say people should be looking for the differences between the teams — the performances and costuming will be different from what you normally see at our shows — you need to come out and see this international event, and meet the people from different teams.”
Red Sands Beach is located at 6411 South Park Rd. in Wisconsin Rapids.