The institution is fictional but the enthusiasm is genuine as the University of Okoboji Winter Games are underway this weekend in northwest Iowa.

Kiley Zankowski  with the Iowa Great Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, says thousands of people are expected through Sunday who will be competing in everything from ping-pong and pickleball to axe throwing and a human foosball tournament.

“We kick off the day Saturday with all sorts of different sporting events, like the broomball tournament, the softball tournament and so much more,” Zankowski says. “We look forward to those other signature events, like the Polar Plunge. It’ll be especially polar this year but it’s always a really fun one to watch.”

In the plunge, about 150 people make donations to charity in order to jump into the frigid West Lake Okoboji, where heavy machinery has removed a section of ice. Other events include a chili cookoff, chocolate tasting, a cribbage tournament and a dog show.

There’s also a kite festival. “We’re really excited about all of the kite fliers that are coming from all across the nation and even a couple international,” Zankowski says. “We’re hoping for around 120 kites in the sky at a time, which will be bigger than ever before, and then really excited about the addition of a Night Kite show on Saturday.”

The forecast indicates the possibility for moderate-to-heavy snowfall in the region this weekend, which she says adds to the fun.
“We’ve kind of got a record of snow this year already, just a ton of snow for snowmobilers, ATVs, UTVs and people to enjoy. It really adds to the Winter Games element and the different activities that we have going on,” Zankowski says. “We wish the temperatures were a little warmer but there’s so much to do inside and outside all weekend long, so we’re just excited for the games to be here.”

The Winter Games are expected to have an economic impact of three-million dollars for the region.

Radio Iowa