Club's Olympic pedigree attracts big crowd to Norge ski jump tourney
Suburban ski jump enthusiasts and those curious about a club that produced three Olympians last year converged in Fox River Grove over the weekend for Norge Ski Club's 114th annual Winter Ski Jump Tournament.
Among those braving the bitter cold was Bob Mundis of Harvard, who first took his family to the tournament about 20 years ago. He was back Sunday to see 2018 Olympian Mike Glasder soar.
"When I first heard about this, I was amazed there's a ski jumping facility in Illinois." Mundis said. "This is a really good day for it."
Glasder, a Cary native, was one of three jumpers from Norge who competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics, joining Kevin Bickner of Wauconda and Casey Larson of Barrington.
Temperatures in the single digits Sunday didn't deter a large crowd, which basked in the sun at the base of the 70-meter ski jump as U2's "Beautiful Day" blared on loudspeakers and an international field of ski jumpers competed.
Spectators rang bells, blew long red plastic horns and applauded the longer jumps. Smoke from small firepits and cigars wafted up toward the ski jump, which towered over the crowd.
Dennis Obal blew on a red horn while watching jumpers with his wife, Erica. It was the Addison couple's first time at the event, and they vowed to return with friends in 2020.
"This will be good at (Black)hawks games as well," Dennis said of his horn.
"And to wake him up in the morning," Erica quipped. "We're going to get a group to come next year and we'll wear more socks."
Barb and Kevin Conway of Grayslake sat in lawn chairs near the base of the jump, where skiers would slow down and exit. Kevin said the club's Olympic pedigree and novelty of the massive ski jump piqued their interest.
"That's what got us thinking about coming out, even though it's cold," Kevin Conway said of last year's Olympians. "We like the outdoors and we've never been here before."
Lance Traub and Allison Oliver, both of Lake in the Hills, also were at the tournament for the first time. Traub said he was actually a little warm under the midday sun and his extra thick, black snowpants. Both said they would come back again.
"It's just really entertaining," Oliver said. "I've never seen anything like it."
Tom Nelson of North Barrington said he heard about the event at a local bar and decided to go this year. His wife, Cindy, balked because of the cold, but Nelson forged ahead.
"It's a great venue," he said, noting he would watch ski jumping as a kid on ABC's Wide World of Sports. "It's something you don't see every day. To live in northern Illinois and have this right in your backyard is phenomenal."
Shelley Grzelak of Crystal Lake said she's been to the tournament five times. She set up a spread of cheeses and other items while tailgating with friends Matt Toscano, also of Crystal Lake, Jason Wolter of Palatine and Kristen Gordon of Hoffman Estates.
Grzelak said the cold didn't make her think twice about going. Rather, it strengthened her resolve.
"Last year, they didn't even have snow. They had to make it," Grzelak recalled. "It's good for the community. It's an attraction, something to come out to. I do go above and beyond with my cheese. One of these is an Alpine cheese as well."
Wolter added, "We try to make a day of it. Tailgating is always a passion of mine."
Erin Damisch was part of a five-person group from Elgin that had been to the event several years running.
"It's something to look forward to in the winter. It breaks up the long, arduous season," said Damisch, standing next to a firepit in a parking lot dotted with grills and SUVs with flags from Norway and other countries flying.
Friend Andy Weiss talked of his preparations beginning Thursday, when he began smoking a brisket. And no one had to worry about the beer getting warm.
"It's about tailgating, camaraderie and hanging with friends," said Dan Poczatek of Elgin.