Sail, Sculpt, and Slide into Wisconsin Winter Fun
Amateur athletes, national award winners, and international legends converge on Lake Winnebago Region for Sturgeon Spectacular
Fond du Lac, Wis. – January 24, 2019
In three short years, a festival that originated to celebrate mammoth fish during Wisconsin’s popular sturgeon spearing season, has grown to attract travelers from across the Midwest, and now in this fourth year, athletes from around the globe.
Sturgeon Spectacular, slated for February 5-10 on Lake Winnebago and throughout Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, is a family-friendly festival featuring more than 50 unique events on the ice, off the ice, indoors and outdoors, from sunrise to well past sunset.
“If you’re searching for winter fun I promise you’ll find it here, especially during Sturgeon Spectacular,” explains Craig Molitor, president and CEO, Destination Lake Winnebago Region. “Our typically vibrant community is currently in overdrive, transforming the downtown into a winter play land, and planning for pop-up venues along the lakeshore. Regardless of the winter temperatures, our place is especially hot these six days.”
Coordinated by Destination Lake Winnebago Region, Sturgeon Spectacular is made possible through a presenting sponsorship from Alliant Energy. The World Ice and Snow Sailing Championships, also sponsored by Alliant Energy, are making a rare return to the United States this year to kick-off Sturgeon Spectacular.
Three Featured Competitions | Amateurs to Legends
Downtown Curling Funspiel – NEW for 2019
Taking it to the extreme in the name of fun, festival coordinators constructed a curling rink in the heart of Fond du Lac’s downtown district for the inaugural Downtown Curling Funspiel. This is a double elimination tournament designed to introduce beginners to the sport of curling in a non-competitive environment.
Nestled between retail spaces and directly outside the THELMA Sadoff Center for the Arts, the Funspiel will commence on Saturday morning, February 9 and continue into Sunday, February 10 as necessary.
“Curling’s growing popularity, relative affordability, and accessibility made it the perfect new addition to our event line-up this year,” shares Peter Wilke, director of marketing and festivals, Destination Lake Winnebago Region. “It’s awesome to see people of all ages getting excited about this winter sport.”
According to a February 2018 USA Today article, since 2000, the number of U.S. curling clubs registered with the national organization USA Curling has nearly doubled, from 99 to 185.1 Participating in this year’s Sturgeon Spectacular, curlers can boast being a part of Wisconsin curling history, as this is the first curling tournament in downtown Fond du Lac.
Preparation for the Downtown Curling Funspiel has garnered enthusiasm and support from Team USA representatives including Greg Johnson, a 2007 gold medalist at the national championships and bronze medalist at the 2007 world championships. Greg will be stopping by Sturgeon Spectacular to spread goodwill on his way to the 2019 National Curling Championships in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
For a short lesson on curling fun, Destination Lake Winnebago Region representatives created this 2-minute video with Greg Johnson sharing the basics and his passion for the sport.
Snow Sculpting – Tons of Fun
Beginning Friday, February 8, in downtown Fond du Lac, the best snow sculptors in Wisconsin will compete in this state championship for a trip to the 2020 US Championships and a cash prize. Judging is scheduled for Sunday, February 10 at 1:00 p.m. with an awards ceremony immediately after.
Carving 6’ x 6’ x 8’ blocks of snow weighing 8,640 pounds, or nearly 4.5 tons, is an incredible process often rooted in a passion for art and innovation.
“The development of a polished snow sculpture is a lot more work than anyone would ever expect. We spend hundreds of hours throughout the year fine-tuning our design and carving process,” shares Josh Jakubowski, an industrial designer and team captain of Sculptora Borealis. From Port Washington, Jakubowski adds, “So, the sculptures you will see at Sturgeon Spectacular are the result of hundreds, if not thousands, of collective design hours between all of the competing teams. And if you pay attention to the teams who have placed in the top three at Nationals for the past 30-plus years, Wisconsin knows snow.”
Introduced to snow sculpting about three years ago, Jakubowski and his teams have since won the 2017 and 2018 state championship, as well as first overall and People’s Choice award at the 2018 National Snow Sculpting Championship. Their winning sculpture entitled ‘Your Move’ is by far his favorite creation to date. Rounding out Team Sculptora Borealis this year is the father-son duo, Bob and Mike Lechtenberg.
“We are excited to see the city of Fond du Lac come alive with art and activities,” Jakubowski adds. “The amazing people behind the scenes making everything run like clockwork and the event sponsors are just great – it’s a really good time surrounded by a lot of good people. We are all very well taken care of and the event is enjoyable for both the sculptors and the spectators.”
Spectators will be excited to learn that Team Snowblind, led by Neal Vogt of Pewaukee, will be returning to Fond du Lac in 2019 and have already confirmed participation in the International Carving Championships in Finland the week following Sturgeon Spectacular.
In conjunction with the 2019 Wisconsin Snow Sculpting Competition, beginning on Friday, February 8, an amateur competition is planned for teams of two to four people. Judging for the amateur competition will occur on Saturday afternoon.
Ice and Snow Sailing – Wind Powered Entertainment
The World Ice and Snow Sailing Championships (WISSA) are the longest running international competition in the sport of windsurfing, and Wisconsin is fortunate to host their return to the United States as part of Sturgeon Spectacular. Competition begins with an opening ceremony on Monday, February 4 along the shores of Lake Winnebago in Fond du Lac.
Events powered by the wind will include course racing, slalom, speed racing, and freestyle for kites, sails and wings. Athletes from Estonia, Sweden, Montreal, Russia, Switzerland, Lithuania, and across the United States have already registered to compete. For the complete schedule, visit www.wissa2019.com
“I am excited and very much looking forward to returning to Lake Winnebago,” shares Klaus Faisst, a competitor from Montreal. “It will be my 28th and my last WISSA competition, and I can’t think of a better place than Fond du Lac for celebrating the end of a long and happy career in winter sailing. Ice and snow sailing has been a huge part of my life – as a competitor, as an event organizer and as a promoter. I am filled with gratitude that it has been good and accident-free for so long.”
As international competitors and spectators begin to arrive in the coming days, they can expect to be greeted by the warm hospitality demonstrated in this 1-minute video welcome from area residents and businesses.
More Than Winter Competitions
Of course, Sturgeon Spectacular has grown in popularity and attendance for a multitude of reasons beyond these three, featured competitions. Click here for a complete event schedule, including concert venues and featured artists, new features and fan favorites, as well as videos and photos to inspire upcoming travel to Fond du Lac. Check out the many hotel accommodations and specials from area business as well. Then, follow Destination Lake Winnebago Region on Instagram (@fonddulaccvb) to stay connected all throughout the year.