When Norge publicity chairman Charlie Sedivec says the 116th Annual Norge Winter Ski Jump Tournament will be “low-key” it sounds odd.
Norge is anything but low-key. It is bombastic. It could be considered McHenry County’s largest block party.
The annual tournament, started in 1905 by a group of Norwegians in Fox River Grove, draws thousands of fans, many of whom are prepared to party.
The tournament will go on this year, from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 31, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic it will not have the usual festive atmosphere. There is a limit of 1,000 tickets, which can be purchased online, for friends and family members of the skiers.
Sedivec said the club considered canceling, as many tournaments have across the country, but decided to go ahead and make it as safe as possible.
“This is the first year where we’re not having it open to the public,” Sedivec said. “We’re going to just open it to skiers’ parents and friends. We figured it was too big of a risk. It’s going to be very low-key. It’s a weird situation we’re in.”
Sedivec said in down years, the tournament draws about 3,000 fans. In better years, Norge may attract up to 7,000 or 8,000. The hill often is packed with people eager to watch some of the world’s best jumpers and to have a good time.
Norge regularly draws competitors from Europe who come to the U.S. for several weeks to compete in various tournaments. That will not happen this year.
“The foreign competitors have all canceled, no one’s flying over here (because of the coronavirus),” Sedivec said. “The competitors out east and out west have canceled.”
The tournament is typically a huge financial boom for the Norge Ski Club with all it draws in.
“What’s killing us is we just spent a half million dollars buying a frost rail set-up that you put on your scaffold that’s like an ice machine,” Sedivec said. “It’ll keep the snow on there as long as you want so you don’t have to worry about the warm weather or anything. We just made our first payment. We could really use the tournament, but safety first.”
Sedivec said the club will look forward to the fall tournament in September. He also is already considering how to make next year’s winter tournament more attractive.
Sedivec said two of Norge’s largest crowds were when Da Yoopers, a comedic musical group, came to the tournament, and when 1988 Olympian Eddie the Eagle, the first British jumper to compete in the Olympic Games, came to Norge.
“When we had Eddie, we had 10,000 people,” Sedivec said. “We’re going to need some kind of gimmick and to do something real big next year.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle