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The Show Goes On: Min-Aqua Bats Get Permit for Water Ski Performances

Dean S. Acheson photo

MINOCQUA – The Min-Aqua Bats’ weekly water ski shows will continue to be a major Island of Minocqua attraction this summer after the town board approved the required permit Tuesday.

Water ski club president Kyle Foster outlined a number of COVID-19 pandemic precautions they will take both before and during the shows that take place on Lake Minocqua on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from mid-June to Labor Day.

“Our number one priority is ensuring that we can do so in a way that’s safe for all our spectators and that we’re mitigating those risks,” said Foster.

Precautions include signage and announcements by the emcee to encourage social distancing, and if “necessary,” roping off bleacher sections to ensure social distancing; the wearing of masks by club members interacting with the public, and prepackaged or plastic wrapped items in the snack shack.

Town chairman Mark Hartzheim however wanted the club to mark the bleachers by tape before the shows to follow the six-foot distancing guideline recommended by health agencies. With some prompting by Hartzheim, who threatened to cast a “no vote, supervisor John Thompson agreed to amend his motion to issue the exhibition and race permit to include that language.

“You know, it’s a personal responsibility thing,” said Thompson. “If you don’t feel good about going down, don’t go.”

But Supervisor Bill Stengl worried that if an outbreak of COVIF-19 does occur, it could result in the business community being forced by the county health department to close stores. “If we lose the month of July, it will be a real tragedy,” he said.

The town chairman said that while the town views the water ski shows as supporting the local economy, this year the “COVID-19 pandemic requires a different mindset. “The organization has to look through it more than just their own lens of self-interest,” said Hartzheim.

Supervisor Brian Fricke sought assurances by the club’s insurance carrier that it would cover any legal matter arising from people contacting the COVID-19 virus at the shows. Pat Abraham, long-time club member, agreed to contact the insurance carrier for that assurance.

Abraham noted the club pays about $8,000 in insurance premiums to provide $2 million in liability coverage for their 30 shows each summer. The club is celebrating its 70th anniversary this summer, continuing its title as the oldest continually running amateur water ski show in the world, added Abraham.

The free shows attract hundreds of spectators, and during major shows such as the Fourth of July performance, attendance climbs well over a thousand. Abraham said both the Eagle River and Plum Lake water ski clubs are planning to have their shows this summer. He listed two other clubs that he has not heard back yet.

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