Ski team entertains at Ellis Park

Members of the Five Seasons Ski Team attempt a three-tier pyramid as part of the opening act of their weekly show last Thursday at Ellis Park. The club performs regularly and participates in regional and national competitions.

Members of the Five Seasons Ski Team attempt a three-tier pyramid as part of the opening act of their weekly show last Thursday at Ellis Park. The club performs regularly and participates in regional and national competitions.

CEDAR RAPIDS — Each Thursday night the water at Ellis Park is transformed into one giant stage, and the show is unlike any other.

Spectators fill the metal bleachers and line the shore to see an elaborate display of graceful acts, impressive stunts and colorful costumes.

The Five Seasons Ski Team has produced these shows for 31 years, and continue to entertain the crowds.

This week the club has an expanded schedule with shows Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. All shows begin at 7 p.m.

“It’s not just an exhibition. We try to put on a real show,” club member Mark Bortz said. “It’s a good quality show.”

Shows are filled with a whirlwind of action with skiers scurrying to prepare for their next routine. Emcees announce the acts and address the crowd between each.

Water skiers perform skills and tricks, including different pyramid formations, ballet lines, barefoot skiing and various jumps.

“It’s very exciting,” Bortz said. “Some of the acts are very intense. They take a lot of concentration, skill and practice.

“It’s really neat when it all comes together and the skiing is good and the audience is on their feet cheering … it’s really cool.”

The club performs from June through September, but members are committed year-round. Practices on water begin in May and can extend to October depending on temperatures. During the winter months, the club has indoor practices.

PREFAB_PYRAMID_CROPPEDClub members fine tune their skills for competition as well. The group, consisting of members from various towns, including Cascade, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Mount Vernon and Palo, competes in local, regional and national meets.

“We try to be a competitive team as well as providing local entertainment,” Bortz said of the club that made the national tournament at least eight of the last 10 years.

The team has performed at Ellis this summer, unlike the early part of last season. The flooding of the Cedar River forced the ski team to practice formations on land and travel to Coralville Lake and Waterloo to perform on water. The team returned for two shows in August.

It was a much anticipated homecoming, and one still appreciated now.

“It was very nice to be back on the river,” Bortz said. “It’s nice to be back home and be able to do the shows for our home crowd.”

Performers take their position for the opening act of the Five Seasons Ski Team’s weekly show last Thursday at Ellis Park. Many acts begin from the stage near the shore.

Performers take their position for the opening act of the Five Seasons Ski Team’s weekly show last Thursday at Ellis Park. Many acts begin from the stage near the shore.

The club has more than 50 skiers and almost 20 others who fill various other roles.

It’s an all inclusive club, accepting of all ages and skill levels. The roster consists of adults of all ages and children as young as 8 years old. Bortz is joined by daughters Amber, 11, and Taryn, 8, and wife, Mary, on the club.

Inexperienced skiers are welcome, and Bortz said they’ve tutored skiers who didn’t even know how to swim.

“Probably 90 percent of the people who join the team have never skied before,” Bortz said. “One of the things we like to do is teach. We like teach people how to do the things that we do.

“That’s half the fun is teaching people how to do stuff.”

Jessica Bonnema joined the club five years ago because a friend was involved. She’s been an active member ever since.

“She went from doing little things to centering the final pyramid,” said Deb Bonnema, Jessica’s mom, who was in attendance for last Thursday’s show at Ellis. “She fell in love with it and is going strong.”

The reason why Bortz, Bonnema and the rest of the team have an opportunity is due to the supporters who attend the Ellis Park show. Bortz said

“If it wasn’t for the fans we wouldn’t exist,” said Bortz, noting the fans help support the club with donations and help attract sponsors. “We want to make sure they’re having a good time and want to come back and see us again.”

Contact the writer: (319) 368-8679 or kj.pilcher@gazettecommunications.com

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