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Thousands gather for the University of Okoboji Winter Games

OKOBOJI, IA (KTIV) – This weekend, folks from all across the globe enrolled themselves in the University of Okoboji Winter Games.

“Everybody comes to the lakes area at the winter games to have fun and enjoy the winter weather,” says Jake Jostand, The Owner of Oak Hill Marina.

“It’s just such a fun way for everybody to escape the cabin fever and enjoy the charm of Okoboji,” says Kylie Zankowski, Director of Membership and Event at the Iowa Greatest Lake Area Chamber.

The Okoboji winter games host thousands of people from all over the county for one unforgettable weekend.

“We’ve got thirty thousand people on average come out every single year from over 22 states and three different countries,’ says Zankowski.

For the 39th year, the popular summer vacation spot welcomes folks to the lake during the winter season.

“Everybody loves to get out and enjoy Okoboji in the summer so it’s just a great way in the winter as well,” says Zankowski.

And it all started out as an idea to create a fake university to organize a small broomball tournament.

“It’s really spread. People come and enjoy it and they bring all their friends and family from around the globe,” says Zankowski.

Since then, folks from all over have enrolled themselves in the University of Okoboji for a weekend of indoor and outdoor events for every age

“Whether you are participating in some of the tournaments we have going on or by warming up by the burning of the greens at night. It’s just a great way for everyone to get together from all across the country,” says Zankowski.

While there are no classes at this university, there’s plenty of on-campus socialization.

“You meet such good people, good food good drinking its games all day long. What more could you ask for in the winter time,” says Kelly Versluis, a local snowmobile driver.

Organizers say that it’s never too cold to host this beloved event.

“Rain or shine, snow or sun we have winter games no matter what,” says Zankowski.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s warm or cold out,” says Versluis.

“Everybody gets out of their houses and has a good time,” says David DeWild, Spirit Lake Elementary School Teacher.

2019 U of O Winter Games Results

Chili Cook-off sponsored by Oak Hill Marina:

Best Business/Overall Winner: Ruthven Meat Locker

Best Non-profit: Hope Haven

Best Booth: Mustang Entertainment

Chocolate Classic sponsored by Ingvall Real Estate Team:

1st: Mary Abbott

2nd: Abby Troung

3rd: Creative Cakes by Mindy Troung

Bean Bag Toss Tournament sponsored by The Gardens:

1st: Weiner Guns

2nd: Bag Twins

3rd: Team Bill Laven

4th: Double Bag It

Consolation Winner: T Baggers

Consolation Runner-up: Cool Beaners

Broomball sponsored by Shaw’s:

1st: New Ulm

2nd: West O/Kraninger Construction


Flag Football sponsored by Parks Marina:

1st: Dry Dock Dragons

2nd: Dicks out for Harambe

3rd: The Revolution

Snow Softball sponsored by The Ritz: (Results coming soon)

5K Road Race sponsored by Lakes Regional Healthcare: (Results Coming Soon)

10K Road Race sponsored by Lakes Regional Healthcare: (Results Coming Soon)

Polar Plunge sponsored by Okoboji Harley-Davidson:

105 plungers dove into the icy waters of West Lake raising funds that benefit the Arnolds Park/Okoboji Fire & Rescue.

Battle of the Bartenders:

Almost $7,000 was raised in one hour. This money will be donated to the top three places and their charity of choice. In third place, The Ritz. $1,372 will be donated to their charity, The Humane Society of Northwest Iowa. Second place was The Shed. Their charity of choice was The Ronald McDonald House, and they will receive $2,058. The winner this year was Outback Lounge, and they chose for their winning proceeds of $3,430 to go to the Lane Frederick Stop Bullying Campaign – STAND UP – SPEAK UP!


Danielle Saitta

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