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Hundreds brave cold to enjoy Norge Ski Jump Tournament

Norge's Matthew Smith lands his jump during the junior competition Saturday at Norge International Ski Jumping Tournament at the Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove.
Norge's Matthew Smith lands his jump during the junior competition Saturday at Norge International Ski Jumping Tournament at the Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove.

FOX RIVER GROVE – Janna Zimmermann and Ray Waldron, both of Cary, staked their spot out early along the eastern edge of the bowl, facing the jumps.

Flanked by Zimmermann’s parents, Kathy and Steve Zimmermann of Palatine, the well-bundled foursome clearly had taken no chances with winter’s chill.

“It’s our first time,” Kathy Zimmermann said. “We came prepared.”

With fleece blankets under and over, long underwear, fleece pants, sweatshirt, coat, faux-fur-trimmed fuchsia hat, and gloves under her leather mittens, Kathy Zimmermann was well-insulated for Saturday’s outdoor fun at the 108th annual Norge Ski Jump Tournament.

Saturday was the junior competition and junior national championship qualifier, with most jumpers ranging in age from 6 to 18.

Hundreds gathered for the event, and a crowd is expected again today for U.S. Cup competition. Jumping starts at noon.

Children and youths who took to the air came from Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Canada, Finland and even the Ukraine, said Meg Larson, a club member and mom of a couple of young competitors, Casey, 14, and Cara, 12.

Larson, of Barrington, said she and her husband, Guy, involved their children in jumping after visiting a tournament when Casey was 6.

“My son said ‘Hey, can I try that?’ ” she said. “He excels at it. He went to the Junior Olympics when he was 9.” 

Cara also is smitten with soaring, her mother said.

Talented, enthusiastic skiers, sunny skies and Norge’s festive atmosphere kept visitors smiling.

Among those helping to keep the crowd jovial between jumps were Johnny “the German” Barnfield and Marty “the Viking” Knapp, both of Fox River Grove and both Norge club members.

With his red and white checked shirt and brown lederhosen, Barnfield said his character was “competing” with Knapp’s Viking. Knapp, 72, is a Norge mainstay, roaming the grounds bedecked with a curly blonde wig, Viking helmet, horn, leather skirt, leather satchel, and “fur” tunic, his bare knees poking out above his crisscross, leather-strapped boots.

“I’ve been doing this for 34 or 35 years,” said the white-bearded man, his pale blue eyes twinkling. “I’m Norwegian. Dad was a ski jumper.”

Mike Gibson, president of the Norge Training Center, said visitors to the hill always are in for a treat. Norge features 5-, 10- 25-, 40- and 70-meter jumps and world-class coaches, he said.

A Norge regular, Terri Barton of Wauconda said she wouldn’t miss it.

“I take a look around and I feel like I’m on a little vacation,” she said. “You don’t have this anywhere else. It’s like its own little world … and the kids have so much fun.”

If you go

What: 108th Annual Norge Ski Jump Tournament

When: Continues noon to 4 p.m. today

Where: Norge Ski Hill, 100 Ski Hill Road, Fox River Grove

Featuring: K70 U.S. Cup Five Hills Tournament; Long-Standing Competition

Admission: $15 at gate; $11 for buttons bought online; free for children 12 and younger

Shuttles available: From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today from Dominick’s and train station

Information:; 847-639-9718

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