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All in the family

--- Families stick together to be part of Minneiska Team

Herb Moering /Contributor

(Published July 19, 2007, 1:00 p.m.)





The Minneiska Water Ski Team is putting the family in family entertainment.

"We are definitely family-oriented," said Jane Wiemerslage, for 29 years the sound system coordinator for the ski team. "It's a wonderful sport for keeping a family together."

She should know, with her two daughters, Lori Heckendorf and Susi Schleicher on the ski team, plus three grandsons. Wiemerslage said Lori and Susi began skiing when they were 11 and 9 years of age respectively, the same ages as Susi's sons, Tyler and Brandon started. Lori's son, Cody, is among the youngest skiers at 8 years of age.

In addition, Wiemerslage's husband, Ron, and son-in-law, John Schleicher, drive two of the four boats used during shows every Saturday evening on Whitewater Lake during the summer.

In another family, the Peters brothers Jim and Jeff drive the pickup safety boat, while a third brother, Chris, is one of the skiers, along with three other of their children.

Two of the families have twins who ski. Tom Beere, who is president of the Whitewater Ski School Academy and handles most of the announcing at shows with wife Rhonda's help, has twin daughters, Madison and Mikayla, and sons, Spann and Jett, on the ski team.

Jim Mensching skis in shows with twins, Devon and Emily. Actually there are 12 families with two or more members on the ski team, as well as parents involved in behind-the-scenes activities including teaching the sport.

The ski team evolved as part of an All-Sports Club on Whitewater Lake back in 1974. It began as a group of mostly young people just doing some stunts on water skis, which has grown into a well-coordinated musical show, while the club's other sports eventually died out.

"It's 100 percent volunteer," Wiemerslage said. "It's a huge commitment involving every weekend."

The team performs its "Ski School of Rock" every Saturday at 6 p.m. offshore at the Scenic Ridge Campground on the southeast side of Whitewater Lake from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The only exception will be this coming weekend when the team packs up all its equipment, puts the boats on trailers and heads for the state tournament, July 19-22 in Wisconsin Rapids.

The tournament is a chance to see how the Minneiska team performance stacks up in the way of entertainment with team jumps, ballet, swivel ski, bare footing, doubles and building pyramids of three to five levels high. Not only is the ski club scored on showmanship and spectator appeal with the required 14 acts, but so are the dock and equipment personnel, the tow and pickup boat crews and the announcers.

In addition to the state event, the team was at the Mercury Invitational at Janesville in June and presented shows at Cravath Lake for Whitewater's Fourth of July homecoming celebration.

The commitment also includes practice sessions that are allowed on the lake from 8-11 a.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. to noon Sundays. Other behind-the-scene necessities involve the families choreographing the show and dock dances with music, making and maintaining costumes, ropes, skis, boats and cooking for the brat fests held twice in the summer.

"Everyone has a talent and can participate in some way," Wiemerslage said. "It's a huge amount of work, but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages."

Occasional picnics add to the camaraderie of the group. It's a chance for the kids to play, while the adults enjoy lots of conversation, Wiemerslage added.

She sees the ski team and academy as "the greatest thing for our family." While the long-time club member has not skied in a show, she and her husband enjoy skiing with the grandchildren periodically.

For those who might have an interest in the sport, Wiemerslage said they can find out more about joining the team by sending their name, address and phone number to the Minneiska Ski Team, P.O. Box 434, Whitewater, WI 53190.

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