A sneak peek at jumpers taking to the skies ahead of this weekend's Norge Ski Club tournament
Suburban winter sports fans can get a head start on the Olympics this weekend as the Norge Ski Club holds its 117th annual Winter Ski Jump Tournament in Fox River Grove.
After a limit of 1,000 people last year, organizers expect 6,000 to 8,000 spectators to descend on the village on Saturday and Sunday.
"We're very excited to have them back," said Charlie Sedivec, who handles publicity for the club and has long served as the announcer of the tournament. "And I think people are excited to be back. Everybody wants to do something where they can have fun outside."
Junior jumpers, ranging in age from 5 to 17, will compete Saturday on several small hills and the 70-meter ski jump, the tallest at the event.
"It's going to be a heck of a competition because so far we've got 106 kids registered," Sedivec said.
On Sunday, spectators will watch the professional competition on the 70-meter hill. About 40 ski jumpers are expected to compete, including club member and 2018 Olympian Michael Glasder of Cary.
Club members Kevin Bickner of Wauconda, Casey Larson of Barrington and Patrick Gasienica of Cary won't make it due to a prior engagement. All three are traveling to Beijing to compete as part of the 2022 Olympic team.
Gates will open at 11 a.m., and jumping will happen from noon to 4 p.m. on both days.
Admission at the gate is $20. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $15 online and at numerous area merchants, including Jewel locations in Fox River Grove and Cary, and Ace Hardware in Fox River Grove.
Founded in 1905, Norge is the oldest ski club in the U.S.
The 70-meter ski jump has towered over the property for a decade. The ski club bought it for $1 from Ely, Minnesota, which could no longer afford to insure it.
On Thursday, junior jumpers from across the country hit the hills for a practice round.
Estella Hassrick, 15, of Madison, Wisconsin, said she's a big fan of the Norge event.
"The track is really nice. The landing hill is smooth. The conditions are great," she said. "I've been competing here for four or five years now. It's a really fun hill."
Club President Scott Smith, who grew up in Cary and learned to jump at Norge when he was 7 and continued until he was 48, said you don't have to know anything about the sport to enjoy the event.
"It's a party," he said. "You get to watch exciting ski jumping, with kids flying over 200 feet, lots of food and drinks. It's a great time."