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East Shore Waterski Team is resurrected and performing

Jake Fritz, Will Stowman and Ben Bergen performed a pyramid during the ski show. Photo by - Brian Basham1 / 6
Tony Schmitz performs a barefoot ski trick in front of the crowd that was gathered on The Fireside dock during the ski show last Thursday night. Photo by - Brian Basham2 / 6
The East Shore Waterski Team before Thursday's performance. Photo by - Brian Basham3 / 6
Thursday's grand finale featured 10 skiers being pulled at the same time. Photo by - Brian Basham4 / 6
A lone skier as the sun is going down. Photo by - Brian Basham5 / 6
One of the acts had a gorilla and chicken skiing at the same time. Photo by - Brian Basham6 / 6

For years, friends Jeff Stowman, Mark Fritz, Mike Fritz and Chris Bergen waterskied together. Some of them formed the barefoot waterski club (1984-92); some performed in a ski show for Water Carnival (1990 and 1991).

This year, it was the next generation's turn.

"When we were littler, every Tuesday night we would get our families together and ski," Frankie Hutchinson said. "This is the first time we've all skied together since three summer ago, though."

On Thursday night, Hutchinson and about a dozen of her fellow waterskiers put on a show on Detroit Lake for Lakeshirts/Blue 84 Collegiate sales representatives.

"Every year they do something super special (for the sales reps conference)," Hutchinson said.

So, owners Mark Fritz and Mike Hutchinson enlisted Stowman to resurrect the East Shore Competition Waterski Team and get them up and skiing.

Stowman said that Fritz and Hutchinson had talked about hiring a professional waterski team for the performance, but they're hard to come by, and instead this was the perfect time to get their kids involved.

"The East Shore Competition Waterski Team is more fun than competition," Stowman said. "(They) are a group of kids who love the water, and parents who love the fact that our kids love the water. We repeatedly prove that there is nothing so fun as finding new ways of pulling each other behind a boat."

When Stowman suggested to the kids that they would put on a show, they were all excited to participate -- after all, it's something they had been doing for years already.

"We would meet on whatever shore was calm and ski as many kids as possible," he said of a few summers ago. "A lot of the kids learned to ski that summer.

"That summer that we skied every Tuesday, everyone had a great time. The parents could socialize, the kids could socialize, and everyone learned how to ski," he added.

Not only were the kids excited to perform last week, the parents were just as excited. With everyone on board with the ski club coming back, it made it easier for everyone to show up for practices.

One of the bigger practices came for Will Stowman. He was on the top of a three-person pyramid, and leading up to the show, he admits he was a tad nervous.

"Everyone wanted to practice, so we practiced on dry land first, climbing up and climbing down," he said. "And then we finally did it on the water and it turned out great."

He said his dad was a good coach for the group, pushing and encouraging the kids -- especially during pyramid practice -- to do their best.

"We finally got it. He's a good coach," Will said.

Sallee Stowman said she was "really excited" when her dad suggested they perform for an audience.

"It was really fun and went really good," she added.

The performers included Eleni Schmitz, Tony Schmitz, Will Stowman, Sallee Stowman, Nicholas Stowman, Jake Fritz, Greta Fritz, Tommy Fritz, Ben Bergen, Bridget Bergen, Frankie Hutchinson, Ian Fritz, Will Green and AJ Lindquist.

Both Sallee and Will are excited for the next time everyone gets together to ski.

"It's fun just being out there with our friends and family in the water all day," Will said.

In fact, the group had so much fun they already have another date set for the next ski party -- and maybe another performance is somewhere on the horizon.

"It wasn't professional, but it went smoothly and as planned," Stowman said.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.